It's the computer-age answer to the ubiquitous "invisible man"--the transparent model used to teach students anatomy. Engineering Animation Inc., a computer modeling company in Ames, Iowa, is developing a 3-D data base of the human body that will store detailed models of Homo sapiens.
Equipped with advanced CAD/CAM and animation capabilities, the system will focus on body parts--the eye, for example--and peel away tissue layers to reveal structures beneath. It will also display the motion of joints: "Pulling" on a wrist tendon would reveal the motion of the hand.
Matthew M. Rizai, Engineering Animation's president, says that the system will use data from the Mayo Clinic's Biomechanics Laboratory. The company has just been awarded $2 million by the Commerce Dept. and expects to have a CD-ROM disk available in three years. The first use will be for training surgeons, but eventually the models may be used to design products ranging from contact lenses to car seats.