Hervieux, a senior engineer with the research company QUASAR, had attached a chest belt to the mannequin. The belt contained ultrasensitive sensors that measure the frequency at which skin vibrates.
Not surprisingly, it vibrates much faster when shot than when running or jumping around.The difference is specific enough to recognize and measure - and from those measurements calculate exactly where a soldier has been shot.
San Diego-based QUASAR, also known as Quantum Applied Science & Research, is performing the experiments as part of a Pentagon-funded program to develop sensor technology for the Future Force Warrior uniform - which is expected to be worn by the next generation of soldiers.
This batch of sensors, which monitor heart rate, breathing and ballistic impact - is one of a several patented sensor systems that QUASAR has developed with government research grants - mostly from the military.
"On the operations side, if I'm a commander, I can see I lost this guy who has been shot," QUASAR President Robert Matthews said. "From a medical side, I can say, 'OK, this guy has been shot and his vitals are going south fast. I better go to him first.'"
There are other sensor technologies available that can do the same thing. What's unusual about QUASAR's dime-size sensors is that they don't have to make contact with the skin. They can be placed in clothing, such as a T-shirt or body armor, and still give off high-quality signals.
That's what Future Force Warrior planners are looking for, Hervieux said. "They really want to incorporate the sensors in the T-shirt, the first thing on the body, and nothing else."
That innovation, discovered by accident six years ago, has gotten the attention not only of the Pentagon but also commercial companies.
QUASAR has signed an exclusive deal with German shoe giant Adidas to explore the commercialization of its sensors for the sports market. The company will not provide further details, and an Adidas spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
"What we focus on is developing technologies that allow us to transition the stuff that is normally done in the clinic out of those offices and into the real world," said Matthews, a physicist with a Ph.D.
QUASAR also has developed a system for monitoring brain waves using sensors embedded in the helmet, which determine whether soldiers are fatigued, inattentive or overwhelmed with too much information.
And it is researching a system that senses muscle movement. The aim is to allow soldiers to maneuver robots hands-free on the battlefield by flexing certain muscles, perhaps in their forearms.
For now, all of this is in the prototype stage. QUASAR's lab retains the seat-of-your-pants quality of invention shops. Its layout is haphazard, as if equipment for experiments is set up wherever there's room. Engineers use off-the-shelf paint ball guns to test ballistic impact sensors. A mannequin head with a thick wig sits prominently on a lab bench. It tests how well QUASAR's brain sensors pick up signals through hair.
"Where you normally would have to stick electrodes to the head to get good signals, we make a really poor electrical connection to the subject and still get good signals," Matthews said.
The company didn't set out to measure heart rates or brain waves. It initially was working on sensor technology to detect secret underground bunkers in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2001, while calibrating the ultrasensitive instruments, engineers kept picking up a rhythmic background signal. It turned out to be the heartbeat of a technician working on the equipment.
That led the company to begin exploring sensors for humans that could pull signals through clothing. It jointly patented the technology with Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
QUASAR has its roots in Quantum Magnetics, a San Diego research firm that built land mine detection systems and airport baggage scanners. Quantum was purchased by General Electric in 2004. Today, many former Quantum employees have landed at QUASAR.
About 18 months ago, QUASAR split itself into three divisions to better focus its research. Each uses the same high-impedance, ultra-low-noise monitoring technology for different applications.
QUASAR Federal Systems tackles the big things. It makes systems to detect underground structures, as well as predict earthquakes and pinpoint lightning strikes. It is run by Lowell Burnett, a physicist with a Ph.D. and former chief executive of Quantum Magnetics.
Electronic BioSciences, run by Andy Hibbs, another physicist with a Ph.D. and co-founder of Quantum Magnetics, focuses on the small things. Its sensors aim to pick up signals and determine what's happening in cells.
The final division, run by Matthews, is plugged into human signals. The combined divisions employ 60 workers.
Besides Pentagon funding, QUASAR has received grants from NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the Small Business Innovative Research Program and other government agencies. It has received about $12 million in funding this year, Matthews said.
QUASAR has high hopes for commercial uses of the human monitoring systems it has developed for the military. For example, the heart sensors, which provide detailed readouts similar to electrocardiograms, could be used for at-home monitoring of heart patients.
QUASAR has embedded the sensors in chairs and pillows for demonstrations. They performed well in a early test at a Texas hospital for cardiac monitoring of infants.
"We're a firm believer that as the population gets older, at-home monitoring is a wave that's coming," Matthews said. "And people aren't going to want to strap something on under their shirt. So a simple arm chair where you sit down and watch TV at night while at the same time monitoring your cardiac health is important."
Noninvasive heart monitoring also might find a market among drug companies for long-term research on users - possibly allowing earlier discovery of the kinds of problems that have led to drugs like Vioxx being shelved.
The company has been working with San Diego consulting firm Next Gen on its manufacturing process. Matthews said there is nothing in the technology or materials that would make it too expensive to produce for commercial products.
"It should be competitive (on price) with the technology that's out there."