With Great Risks Come Great Rewards

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are beginning to engage with spin-offs, start-up companies, and “Silicon Valley” culture, creating a new and exciting environment for these small companies. With the participation from DoD and DHS, digital human modeling (DHM) companies could experience an increase in the use of their software and tools, ultimately providing innovation and solving problems for the government and military.

So why exactly is the partnering of the DoD and Silicon Valley important, and who does this new relationship benefit?

The DoD spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on developing new weapons systems to implement in the military, and yet seems to find itself always behind the curve, due to the “breakneck pace” of the 21st century’s technological advancements. No matter how hard the DoD tries to buy and implement new technology, it can be outdated in just a matter of months, simply due to the nature of technology and the pace at which it’s advancing. Furthermore, the acquisition process can be prohibitively slow. So, why limit problem solving to the military community? Why not crowd source innovation, and top of talent outside of the military, in order to solve problems that could ultimately benefit the civilian sector as well as the military?

By using software created in the very heart of innovation, Silicon Valley, the DoD can make improvements to the military at the same pace that technology is advancing. Understanding the Silicon Valley culture is likely the most difficult part for the DoD to grasp. The nature of innovation on the west coast is to fail, fail fast, fail often, and try again until new software and systems are created. Venture capitalists readily invest money into start-up companies in the Valley because of the high rate of return once the failure ceases and the success begins. This process has proved successful in the Valley, as new technology and software is emerging constantly.

However, the DoD has a different process involving red tape, regulations, and secrecy, making the funding very tight and carefully planned out in order to produce success with little money to waste. This process includes no room for risk, with government officials being wary of even the slightest chance of failure, no matter how big the benefit for the military may be. Adopting the Silicon Valley culture of failing and repeating until success is made will be a very large step for the DoD to make, but if anything the Valley has shown us that the greater the risks, the greater the reward, all in a more compact time period. It is possible that adopting this culture may actually save money, as small start-up companies usually have very few employees creating new technology, so it would take less money to invest in these “fail faster” companies than big corporations which require huge sums in order to innovate. Instead of buying new widely available commercial technology every week, month, year, etc., the DoD needs to integrate these DHM start-up companies’ defense software and devices and learn to use them faster, better, and apply the technology to the necessary parts of the military.

Having the DoD set up shop in Silicon Valley is an exciting new partnership, for the benefit of national defense and the DHM companies that the DoD chooses to partner with. These companies chosen will receive funding and national attention, allowing them to expand and create even more new technology, ultimately closing the gap and keeping the military up to date with ever-advancing technology.







Anna Schuchert, Social Media Communications, SantosHuman Inc.



Protect Those Who Protect Us

In the article written by Vivienne Machi for the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Coming Soon: Lighter Body Armor for Soldiers, it mentions that the military and defense contractors are working on producing lighter body armor for today’s warfighters, so they have less of a burden when overseas.

The article reads: “…when he first crossed the border into Iraq, he was wearing the same type of vest that was worn during the Vietnam War…” Is the military making great enough changes to protect our servicemen? Our soldiers are the best weapon and the strongest asset we have. However, personal protective equipment remains a critical issue. The real question is how to create this “optimal product” for our warfighters in the current and future fight.

As new and lighter materials surface, there is a continued need to balance protection with mobility, without exercising expensive tests and prototypes. We cannot afford to spend an excessive amount of money on extensive testing. In addition, design and analysis should be fully integrated with the human system, in order to ensure the body armor responds appropriately to individual anthropometry and to various mission-critical tasks. In fact, personal protective equipment is an example of where ideas from the DoD’s 3rd Offset can be applied, pursuing new technology that focuses on and integrates with the individual warfighter.

To help move this process along faster and safer, we should push to keep as much of the testing as we can in the virtual world. Digital human modeling (DHM) companies can help speed up this process, stepping in to eliminate costly and time-consuming prototypes. “Army officials touted the progress of body armor development over the past 15 years of war…” states the article, but there is clear opportunity for improvement.

The good news is: DHM companies now have sufficient technology to quickly build and test prototypes during simulated task completion, so the military can be constantly improving body armor to always have the most protective gear for our military, while saving immense amounts of time and money along the way. This is just one example that suggests digital human modeling companies should be partnering with more tier 1 and tier 2 defense contractors, in order to jumpstart the process of virtually designing and testing new and improved body armor for our military.


Anna Schuchert, Social Media Communications, SantosHuman Inc.



Building a Practical Brain with AI

One of the greatest current constraints to the advancements of Digital Human Models is integrating a “practical” brain.  With the rapid advancements in methods for leveraging so called big data, and with the many new approaches for AI, couldn’t we at least start to simulate or even predict decisions in the context of a digital human?

Some scientists seem to think so. We already have examples of rapidly growing artificial intelligence, such as a AI machine programmed to beat all humans at a game- that game is poker. Called Cepheus, this new poker bot was created by a research team at the University of Alberta. This AI was created by manually programming every possible poker hand in Texas Hold ‘Em, but now the robot has the “intelligence” to use that information to beat any human who plays against it. The researchers say that the intelligence used by Cepheus is based on making good decisions, which will hopefully transfer into areas such as medicine and security, where good decisions are always needed.

But how will artificial intelligence continue to actually grow its intelligence, and possibly learn to think on its own? Sam Harris gave a recent TED talk about the dangers of building artificial intelligence. We’ve all heard the stories of robots taking over the world and “death by science fiction,” as Harris calls it, but he has the facts to make us excited- and a little bit concerned. Electric circuits in machines with AI function about a million times faster than biochemical ones, so a machine built to the intelligence of a researcher at MIT or Stanford would think about a million times faster than the minds that built it. If this machine runs for a week, it will perform 20,000 years of human-level intellectual work, which is impossible to keep up with, or even begin to understand.

However, instead of being concerned about what we can’t understand, consider the many less threatening applications. Building a digital human model has not yet completely encompassed a “practical brain.” But some have come close. Researchers can use the knowledge from Tellex’s “Million Object Challenge,” where a machine is programmed with AI to identify an object and then pick it up with a sufficient grasp, and then store that information in a database for later use. Other machines with AI can then also access that database. We could build databases for robots that include more than just identifying and grasping objects, and use that intelligence to predict and analyze human behavior in digital human models. This in turn could help improve products, reduce injuries, and more.

Let the artificial intelligence do the work for us, to save time and money.








Update: Arm Force Field Method Paper for Publication in Applied Ergonomics in 2017

Congratulations to Dr. Nick La Delfa and Dr. Jim Potvin (Prof. Emer., McMasters University), whose Arm Force Field method paper will be published in Applied Ergonomics in March 2017 but is available online now at:


The ‘Arm Force Field’ method is the most accurate and most extensively validated method of predicting manual arm force available today.

La Delfa & Potvin - 2017 - ScreenShot-2.png

Employee performs at Blue Moose in September

One of our employees, Anna Schuchert, is a professional musician during her free time, and she will be playing in a show at the Blue Moose Tap House in Iowa City on Monday, September 26th. She plays piano and sings covers of songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and a mix of today’s hits. Some of her favorite artists to cover are The Eagles, The Beatles, and Bruno Mars. The show features Anna as the opening act at 6:30 pm, with the headliner, The Icarus Account, following at 8:30. The show is for all ages, and doors open at 6pm. Visit here to read more about the event: http://www.bluemooseic.com/event/1291267-icarus-account-iowa-city/.

Tickets are $10 either online or at the door, or you can contact our office for tickets as well:


PREMUS Convention in Toronto, Canada

On June 20-23, 2016, PREMUS, the 9th International Scientific Conference on the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, is taking place in Toronto, Canada.
A variety of professionals, including scientists, researchers, and ergonomists, come together to discuss their shared interests in understanding the causes and prevalence work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
SantosHuman Inc’s Technical Consultant, Jim Potvin (former Professor, Dept. of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada) will be presenting “Efficient Assessment of Physical Workload.” During this session he will present quick reference tables to estimate female manual arm strength.
Read more about the PREMUS Conferences here, with Jim Potvin’s presentation noted on the bottom of page 38.

Are you at risk for Repetitive Stress Disorder?

A number of workers are suffering from repetitive stress disorder (RSD). One in every eight Americans have been diagnosed with this disease because over 60% of the jobs’ primary functions are a direct root.

What jobs cause RSD?

  • Office Workers: The continual typing, sitting and staring at a computer screen without breaks causes a large number of injuries in the average office worker. Most injuries occur in wrists, elbows, and hands.
  • Grocery Baggers: The repetition of scanning barcodes thousands of times a shift causes a large number of hand, arm and neck injuries in this occupation.
  • Assembly Line Workers: Each job is different in an assembly line, but the repetition of a task is constant among all assembly line workers. This causes a large number of injuries in all areas of the body.
  • Mechanics: Mechanics are often working in poor posture positions or positions that are awkward to maneuver in. This causes a large amount of injuries and RSD for these individuals.

What are the symptoms of RSD?

Most of the time RSD is mild. The symptoms begin as a small amount of pain and advance into an injury. This condition mostly affects the upper-body of an individual. Symptoms include: pain or aching, throbbing, numbness, weakness, cramping or stiffness in a muscle or joint.

How to prevent RSD?

In order to prevent this disease, individuals should take frequent breaks and stretch out their muscles. This technique, though, will only help short term. To see long-term results, ergonomics should be used to help combat this problem. There are a multitude of products designed to help individuals interact with their environment with minimal physical injuries.

Chairs are being designed by ergonomic-based companies that comfortably place individuals into the proper seated position. Keyboards are designed to reduce the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome, a type of RSD. There are also ergonomic training systems that can be implemented in businesses to help their employees battle RSD.
To read more take a look at NOLO’s article on RSD.