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Biomotion Solutions: Simulating active people in motion

Biomotion Solutions is a spin-off of the University of Tübingen that creates simulations of the human body in motion. The young company’s clients are as varied as its applications, including car manufacturers, sportswear manufacturers, veterinarians and physicians as well as horse breeders and the police.

Dr. Valentin Keppler and Dr. Helmut Mutschler, the two founders, built their company on solid foundations. They have known each other since they were children, they both went to the same grammar school, studied at the University of Tübingen and did their doctoral theses in the research group of Prof. Dr. Hanns Ruder, who was the then head of the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Tübingen specialising in biomechanics. Ruder shared his experience in this area with the two doctoral students who both did their theses on topics related to biomechanics.

Dr. Valentin Keppler © Biomotion Solutions

Following Ruder's retirement, Keppler and Mutschler moved on to the Tübingen-based Institute of Sports Science. "During our studies, we realised that there was a huge demand for solutions for biomechanical issues, in particular in the areas of automotive technology, tool development and medical technology," recalled Keppler. And so the idea was born to provide innovative services and products developed by researchers. They prepared a business plan and applied for funding from the Baden-Württemberg government's "Young Innovators" programme. They received the go-ahead in 2006. "Prof. Dr. Veit Wank from the Department of Sports Science who specialises in kinematics, biomechanics and training theory became our mentor and supported us during our "Young Innovator" period," said Keppler. In 2007, the two scientists founded the company "Biomotion Solutions GbR" which became a German GmbH (limited liability company) in 2010. "At first, it was easier to set up a civil law association. But now, a limited liability company gives us a wider range of possibilities, for example it allows us to have investors. That is why we chose to change our company status," said Keppler.

Specific aspects of human movement are digitalised

TraXXol system: Recorded movement data can be analysed using human model simulations. This enables the calculation of forces and moments. © Biomotion Solutions

The company's first product was the TraXXol measurement system. This system enables human and animal motion to be captured, which is previously recorded using a video camera, in a highly resolved way and the recording is integrated into simulation programmes. TraXXol has already been launched on the German market and will be available on the international market from May 2010. TraXXol can be used in a broad range of applications in veterinary and human medicine, for example for investigating motion disorders. Some diseases are associated with ataxia, the disturbed coordination of movement. These disturbances can be analysed in detail using TraXXol. Animal movement analyses are also of major commercial interest to animal breeders.

"Horse breeders and owners can use the system to assess whether a horse's gait is normal. This is an important aspect in expensive, award-winning horses. It is important to find out early on whether the horse is likely to develop a movement problem," explained Keppler. The system can also be used in zoological research: spider experts at the University of Jena tested the TraXXol software using films of the rapid movements of South American hunting spiders. "Spiders move forward as if driven by a hydraulic system. Such investigations might for example help to develop efficient robots which are driven by "spider legs"," said Keppler. The programme will also be used in science, for example for facilitating the investigation of complex courses of motion.

Simulating the interaction of people with objects

The muscle-skeleton model of the cervical spine is used for the optimisation of car seats, amongst other things. © Biomotion Solutions

The company's second area of activity is simulations of moving people and their interaction with vehicles, machines, tools, etc. For example in the automotive sector: Highly sophisticated simulation software programmes are available to simulate the movement of cars. One of the most frequently used is the Simpack software produced by the German software company Simpack. Biomotion Solutions works closely with Simpack AG. "Simpack has the simulated car and we provide the simulated human," said Keppler summarising the company's mutually beneficial cooperation. Biomotion Solutions' human model is integrated into the Simpack software and sold as a single package.

The motion simulations of Biomotion Solutions are complex and realistic in equal measure. In order to achieve the lifelike result, the two physicians closely studied medical and biological details. "We have acquired a great deal of knowledge in these two areas, for example we have visited an operating theatre to increase our medical understanding. In addition, we have both spent several years working as part of the emergency medical services, which has also broadened our medical knowledge," said Keppler. The founders' huge amount of experience has led to simulations that produce highly accurate predictions and reconstructions. The police are already clients and insurance companies are extremely interested in the products.

Minimising danger and strain using computer simulations

Motorbike manufacturers have also shown a great deal of interest in the simulation of motion. “A dummy is excellent for investigating what happens when a car hits a wall, but dummies cannot easily be placed on motorbikes. This requires an active control and our simulations cannot do this,” said Keppler going on to add “bikes start to vibrate at high speed. Such instability can only be properly understood when the vehicle and the driver are looked at together.” Test riders are usually used for characterising speed limits, although this is not an easy job despite all the safety precautions. From now on, computer simulations will be able to replace many of the test rides.

The simulations are not always used to simulate the motion of the entire human body: For example, finding out how whiplash injuries occur is of interest to car manufacturers and orthopaedics professionals alike. “The mechanisms that lead to these kinds of injuries have still not been clarified in detail. We hope that our simulations will be able to contribute to solving these issues and also help car manufacturers in optimising the design of car seats,” said Keppler. The Tübingen scientists also simulate the interaction between limbs and tools or sports equipment. Sports equipment producers would like to have access to precise vibration analyses in order to optimise the design of sports rackets.

Further information
Biomotion Solutions GbR
Dr. Valentin Keppler
Dr. Helmut Mutschler
Appenbergstraße 4
72072 Tübingen
Tel.: +49 (0)7472 2060851
E-mail: info[at]biomotion-solutions.de
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/biomotion-solutions-simulating-active-people-in-motion