Motion Capture (MoCap) is the process of translating human movement into other mediums such as video games and movies. It has a variety of uses; from sports analysis and medical application to robotics and military use. Nowadays we see motion capture most often in blockbuster films such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or Lord of the Rings in which real actors don a variety of motion capture suits in order to record subtle expressions and lifelike body movements. In the film and video game industry, motion capture has gained enough respect to be called performance capture, in order to honor the actors that work hard to bring CGI characters to life.
The earliest form of motion capture was achieved by filming an actor playing out his parts through multiple cameras to capture the movement in a 3D fashion. This was called rotoscoping, which was a method devised by filmmaker Max Fleischer in 1915 that consisted of animators tracing their drawings over frames of the filmed actions of live actors. This method was adopted by Disney, which used rotoscoping to create their first feature-length movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The motion capture method lent the animated feature a sense of fluidity and realism never before seen in animation.
By the 1970’s, universities and filmmakers designed a new way to capture the movements of actors using a 3D optical technique. Actors covered in reference marks would act out their roles in front of a camera which would then triangulate their movements onto a computer. Hollywood would quickly pick up this method and apply it to create fully realized motion captured characters such as the infamous Jar Jar Binks in 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. From that point on, motion capture evolved at an unprecedented rate, with cameras becoming more and more complex, virtual worlds were being created and explored to the fullest.
Perception Neuron seeks to redefine the motion capture industry by using the world’s smallest inertial measurement unit (IMU), or, "neurons," as we like to call them. Neurons are tiny wireless sensors that actors place on their body and which connect to a hub. The hub is in turn connected to a computer via WiFi or USB port. The “neuron” sensor system is revolutionary in that it is adaptable to many fields including filmmaking, video game development, visual effects, virtual reality, sports analysis and much more. The system is lightweight, so it allows the performers to be truly flexible wherever they are. The difference between Perception Neuron and other motion capture systems is that while most systems are only available to high-profile developers, Perception Neuron brings the power of motion capture to the consumer and the everyday inventor by being truly affordable. While most inertial sensor suits range from $5,000 USD, Perception Neuron made waves by launching its Kickstarter campaign with the price of the basic 10-neuron sensor kit at just $200.
<>[photo top right]: Real-life motion data (left) is acquired on a motion capture platform (center) and used to determine the posture of the CHAD phantom (right), courtesy of Vazquez88.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.