Tracing movement with a suit

A smart suit embedding 19 motion sensors provides applications with the movement data of a human body. Credit: Rokoko

Several years ago I visited the lab of Don Marinelli, at that time professor at CMU. He showed me his studies on capturing the human body motion to replicate them in synthetic characters for movies. He had a lab equipped with several video cameras hanging from the ceiling and he glued tiny mirrors on the dress worn by a dancer to pick up his movements.

Technology has progressed quite a bit from those times (it was less then 20 years ago but in technology time it was another age).

Now I read of a Danish company, Rokoko, that has managed to embed 19 sensors, each one consisting of an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magneometer, that can provide accurate data on position and movement of a human body, at a fraction of the cost of current technologies (their claim is 1/50th of the price of current technologies with similar accuracy).

Why would you want to wear such a suit?

Well it is easy to understand its potential for film makers. You can accurately trace the movement of an actor and then you can replicate her movement in the rendering of the movie creating scenes that would be impossible to shoot in reality, and yet keeping the fidelity of that actor movement.

However, for each of us it might be difficult to imagine such a use (consider that the rendering is really really sophisticated and not within our reach as "amateur" movie makers).  Yet, Rokoko vision is to have many of us, normal folks, to wear their suit. What for?  

Well, their idea is that in the near future augmented and virtual reality will become seamlessly part of our daily life. You may want to dress up with those sensors to transmit your actual movement in space, may be to be replicated hundred miles away by a robot in your vacation house to fix something. The robot is doing the actual fixing and you are actually mimicking it.  This example is fully mine, just to give an idea.  Actually, Rokoko is foreseeing the use of their suit for embodying avatars to replicate, in the cyberspace, our movements.

Whatever it will be it is already clear that technology for a sort of tele-transport is getting more and more sophisticated and affordable.  It is not, yet, a "beam me up Scotty" but we are getting close enough for several applications.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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