Free software models how humans move

Andrew Myers | Stanford University | November 1, 2011

An open source software application modeling human motion is helping medical professionals and bioengineers study, diagnose, and correct abnormalities in how people move.

In the future, OpenSim is expected to help determine whether a simple surgery to lengthen a specific muscle might help people with cerebral palsy; predict how simple changes in gait might reduce the incidence or severity of osteoarthritis; and help millions of people delay or avoid costly hip and knee replacements.

It may also help in the development of new, more sensitive prosthetics that are able to read and interpret electrical impulses to control the devices. “OpenSim is out there and hundreds are downloading it every week,” says Jennifer Hicks, OpenSim’s project manager at Stanford University. “If each copy helps only one person, that’s helping a lot of people.”

“That’s the exciting thing about open source,” says Scott Delp, professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering, and orthpaedic surgery. “By putting this powerful software in the hands of as many people as possible, we are setting in motion a self-perpetuating research ecosystem that will build upon itself to push the field forward.”