by Remo Sikkema
Tracking systems are frequently used to record and resource movement down to the most minute detail – whether for film, TV, video games or even sport. However, there have always been limitations on motion capture set ups, largely due to uncontrollable environmental factors.
Mocap developers are now actively testing the world’s first truly ‘mocap anywhere’ solution. The research and development team at Xsens claim they have managed to overcome the effects of magnetic distortion on inertial motion capture data. This groundbreaking development would enable motion capture in any environment, with clean, production quality, reliable data – and all without the need for a volume or sensor cameras.
So what is Magnetic distortion? Inertial mocap solutions are powered by sensor fusion technology, using input from gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers. As such, Xsens’ own MVN suits are completely mobile, enabling motion capture without the need for cameras, stages, or sticky balls. Showcased at E3 2017, the new MVN suit can track movement just about anywhere – even throughout extreme sports like skydiving or mountain biking.
Albeit cheaper and easier than a stationary mocap stage, the problem with portable motion capture is its susceptibility to magnetic distortion – a previously uncontrollable environmental factor. The presence of metal can corrupt captured data, necessitating a whole lot of clean-up.
Resolving magnetic interference will have huge ripples across motion capture studios and technology providers worldwide. Mobile mocap has a huge range of applications in the sporting, automotive, ergonomics and entertainment spheres.
Xsens’ mocap solution is currently in closed beta, with a release planned for November 2017. In other words, the technology is right now being tested by several leading Triple-A studios, and their reactions have been been very exciting:
“Xsens’ ability to overcome magnetic distortion allows us the flexibility to capture accurate performance data in a whole range of new situations, with the accuracy of optical capture. That’s invaluable for our work on live virtual performance at Senua Studio, where stability in uncontrolled settings is crucial. This is a tremendous step forwards for the mocap industry.”
Xsens say the technology is particularly useful for animators – and can be used to seemingly transfer someone into the virtual world. Users are fully immersed, every movement copied, in a whole new reality. Beyond simple entertainment, the applications for hands on training are endless; from football matches, to car test drives. The suit is even equipped with ultra-small trackers to allow for rolls and stunts.
“It even allows you to control an avatar’s full body,” says Stephenie DeGuzman, Business Developer at Xsens. “So, if you’re creating a VR experience or VR game, for example, you could tie your avatar to our system such that it allows you to see your arms and legs while interacting with your environment in VR.”
On completion, this major development is planned to be released in the form of an update to their existing product software and will be rolled out for free to all existing customers.
The suit is self contained – with all information recorded in a convenient on-body pack – and has a battery life of up to 12 hours. Pricing for Xsens suits run from $12,500 to around $30,000, which is a lot cheaper than a classic ‘volume based’ motion capture setup. It is an ideal solution for animation studios or game developers as well as biomechanical or ergonomic analysis and sports performance science.
This development will open up a new world of possibilities for motion capture that have never been achievable before.