"If you put lots of high-tech stuff on a soldier's helmet and the additional mass makes the helmet slide over the soldier's eyes when he dives into a fox hole, that's a problem," says Robert Playter, vice president of engineering at Boston Dynamics. "That's the kind of problem you want to uncover before the helmet makes its way to the battlefield." Boston Dynamics is developing software tools for virtual prototyping of next-generation soldier equipment that are part of Objective Force Warrior, the U.S. Army's new science and technology initiative to develop future soldier fighting systems. The company is using its Digital Biomechanics , which relies on robotic control and physics-based models, for providing human-simulation software that obeys the same laws of locomotion, balance, and loading as a person would in the physical world. Analysts at the Army's Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA use Digital Biomechanics to assess the impact of prototype designs on soldier performance before building physical mock-ups and testing with soldiers. Virtual prototyping reduces the design cycle. "Instead a design cycle of a year or more, the goal is to get things done in months or weeks," says Playter. Prototyping tools the company will deliver to the Army in upcoming months include physics-based simulation of soldiers performing war-fighting tasks. "We proved the concept, now we are developing the product." For more information, go to www.bdi.com.
One way to keep a Formula One racing team moving at breakneck speed in the pit and at the test facility is to bring CAD drawings of the racing vehicleís parts down to the test facility and even out to the track.
Most of us would just as soon step on a cockroach rather than study it, but thatís just what researchers at UC Berkeley did in the pursuit of building small, nimble robots suitable for disaster-recovery and search-and-rescue missions.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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