Press Release

OpenSim software helps design smart suits for soldiers

Stanford team receives $1.8M from DARPA to create a simulator to predict soldier performance and injury risk.

OpenSim for the Warrior WebThe Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University has received a $1.8 million contact from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a simulator for designing and testing smart suits for soldiers. The simulator will build on OpenSim, an open source software platform for modeling the human body and simulating movement. Suit designers will use OpenSim to model their smart suits and predict whether they will improve soldier performance and mitigate injuries.

Musculoskeletal injuries, like ankle sprains and ligament tears, are a growing problem on the battlefield. DARPA’s Warrior Web aims to develop smart suits that can reduce soldier fatigue and injury rates. Given the complexity of the human body, predicting how a suit or ankle brace will affect a soldier is incredibly challenging and rapid prototyping to iterate on different designs is expensive. Even if you have a prototype, you can’t test it in high-risk battlefield scenarios. So DARPA is funding the OpenSim team to create a simulation platform for rapid, low-cost, and safe design and testing.

OpenSim is built on principles from physiology and biomechanics—realistic muscles, bones, and joints drive OpenSim’s simulations. The software will predict how soldiers’ movements might change in new scenarios when wearing the Warrior Web smart suits. This is a key advance – until now simulations have relied on existing experimental data from human subjects. The software will also include tools for predicting how much physical exertion a movement requires and analyzing the risk for common injuries like ACL tears and ankle sprains.

OpenSim and all of these new tools will be free and open for all to download. This means that not only smart suit designers benefit from the software, but also other researchers and engineers at Stanford and around the world. For example, tools for predicting injury risk and physical exertion can help design strength training programs to prevent falls in elderly adults or ankle braces for children with cerebral palsy.

Scott Delp, the James H. Clark Professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford University, is leading the OpenSim team, a group of engineers and scientists with expertise ranging from biomechanics to computer science. Jennifer Hicks is the research and development director for the OpenSim project. The lead software architects are Ajay Seth, Ayman Habib, and Michael Sherman. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students leading the varied research fronts of the project include Tim Dorn, Tom Uchida, Matt DeMers, Jack Wang, Carmichael Ong, and Apoorva Rajagopal.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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