Soldier avatars drive down testing costs

Soldier avatars to drive down testing costs

The Army could soon be turning to avatars as a less expensive alternative for testing everything from military gear to medical applications.

The goal of researchers at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is to develop software that morphs a three-dimensional, full-body scan of soldiers onto human internal anatomy to create male and female avatar warfighters of varying shapes and sizes. 

"This strategy has the possibility to create a large library of avatars, indeed, an online avatar 'Army' available for research use," Gary Zientara, a mathematical modeler at USARIEM, said. "Creating avatar models with this software enables individualized physiological modeling where an individual soldier's avatar can be clothed and moved through different postures and positions in order to be able to test angles of vulnerability and eventually even exercise and test physiological responses in any climatic environment."

The 3-D scanning software analyzes the external surface of soldiers as well as the skeletal structure so that the software understands the soldier’s position. The software then blends and sizes the standard anatomy into the posture represented by the soldier’s scan.

“Human-like computer graphics figures shown in Hollywood movies or in online games are hollow, lacking internal anatomy,” which makes them easier to animate but less useful for simulations than the full anatomy USARIEM avatars, Zientara said.

In partnership with Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s anthropometry team, Zientra and USARIEM chief of the Biophysics and Biomedical Modeling Division Reed Hoyt created 250 male avatars to test and demonstrate the USARIEM computer program. 

“We consider our avatar products as 'first generation' due to the approximations made, but highly useful, nonetheless,” Zientara said. “The project takes advantage of computer technology now available on off-the-shelf, moderately priced commercial workstations. A great feature is that the computation is a black-box operation -- that is, it does not require any expert input. Easy scanning and easy computing make our avatars a widely deployable tool for the Army.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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