University of Iowa Technology Institute Receives Grant From Epic Games


The University of Iowa Technology Institute earlier this month received a $ 100,000 grant from video game publisher Epic Games to study UI virtual human, Santos, using Epic’s Unreal Engine.

The University of Iowa Virtual Human Interface is being explored to potentially make video games more realistic.

Researchers at the UI Institute of Technology received a $ 100,000 Epic MegaGrant from video game developer Epic Games to investigate the combination of the UI’s virtual human user interface with Epic’s game Unreal Engine.

Santos – the university’s virtual human created in 2004 – and its female counterpart Sophia are digital human models that enable the testing of human abilities in computer-aided design environments of objects, vehicles and scenes.

Founded in 1991, Epic Games is one of the most famous video game companies in the market for titles like Fourteen days and Military equipment, as well as its digital distribution platform Epic Games Store.

In March 2019, Epic Games launched its Epic MegaGrants campaign, which is providing $ 100 million to support game developers, business professionals, media and entertainment developers, students, educators, and tool developers studying Epics Unreal Engine.

Unreal Engine is Epic’s set of 3D development tools for video games and other real-time media.

Karim Abdel-Malek, UI professor and director of Virtual Soldier Research, said the researchers are still a long way from fully replicating human life with the virtual human Santos.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” he said. “He is able to understand strength and exhaustion and to tell you whether or not he will be injured, but many things are missing from the cognitive aspect. The intelligence aspect is still quite immature, and we want to work on it. “

Rajan Bhatt, associate research engineer for the Virtual Soldier Research Program, said Santos has moved on in nearly twenty years of existence.

“He used to only be able to make a few movements, now he can let you know what he can and can’t do,” he said. “He has made progress on the physical and physiological side, but on the intelligence scale he is probably still two years old, where we still have to tell him exactly what steps to take and how to proceed individually.” Things to a task to meet. “

The program previously worked with the U.S. Army and automaker Ford to predict long-term ergonomic and safety concerns on assembly lines.

Bhatt said the partnership will help Epic Games create a more hands-on gaming experience for users.

“You benefit from all the development that we have made over the past 20 years,” he said. “Santos can walk, run, jump, but he can also get tired and tire over time so that he cannot do the same thing at the same speed forever. This integration will help make games much more realistic. “

Marco Tena Salais, UI alum and application developer at the Technology Institute, said the grant will benefit researchers as the Unreal Engine is accessible and the Santos interface is made accessible to the masses.

“Unreal is a very easy to download resource for anyone who would help research, so it’s a matter of accessibility,” he said. “If we can make Santos a plug-in for Unreal, then anyone who downloads Unreal can download Santos and do their own research.”

Tena Salais said any institution looking to simulate human exercise could benefit from working with Santos.

“One of the more difficult things for athletes is figuring out the best position to move the body in,” he said. “A good example is someone who throws a ball. It might be easier for him to throw it a little higher than a little lower, and you may not know that until you see the actual numbers for it after doing a few simulations with Santos. “

Bhatt said the next step in partnering with Epic Games is to complete the originally proposed assignments and move on to the next phase of the five-year project.

“The goal is to work with Epic for five years and then go beyond that,” said Bhatt.

Abdel-Malek said his dream for the project is that in the future, when a person logs into a video game, it will be operated by Santos.

“It would be a great achievement for Iowa to get recognition for the hard work we’ve done here and that big companies like this are taking advantage of it,” he said. “We’re excited that someone like Epic Games can incorporate our technology into their games.”

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