A large screen shows "Santos," a computer-generated model of a soldier, picking up boxes one by one and placing them in an Army truck.
While Santos might not be as flashy as the soldiers in most computer games, he is much more important to the U.S. Army in that he has been used to reduce the cost of testing new armor, weapons and procedures by allowing the tests to be conducted solely in the virtual world.
Santos was developed by the University of Iowa's Center for Computer Aided Design. Center director Karim Abdel-Malek spoke at an Iowa City Area Development Group, or ICAD, luncheon Tuesday at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.
He said that the center approached the Army six years ago to explain how it could reduce the costs of testing. The military liked the idea and funded the center's work.
The same technology now is being used to complete virtual tests of amusement park rides and construction equipment.
Abdel-Malek said the center has flourished in Iowa City, hiring 35 new positions in the last five years.
"The difficult part has been how to attract people here. But once they are here, they don't go," he said.
The center now has 170 researchers at 15 laboratories.
The center costs $12 million each year to operate, which Abdel-Malek said is from "external" sources.
On its Web site, the center lists sponsors such as Honda, Rockwell Collins, the National Science Foundation, United Defense and Caterpillar.
ICAD president Joe Raso said the center's work is an example of the area's strong high-tech industry.
"We could think of no better example than the cutting-edge work Karim is engaged in to represent our growth through innovation," he said in a statement.
According to ICAD's annual report, local companies that participated in a survey reported adding 1,446 jobs in fiscal year 2008 and plan to add 1,350 jobs in the next 36 months.