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Grant Provides all the Right Moves in Motion Capture


Advanced Animation Equipment Gives UCR all the Right Moves

A grant, which includes cash and equipment valued at $160,000, to the Bourns College of Engineering provides state-of-the-art equipment to improve motion capture process.

(March 4, 2008)

Victor Zordan, assistant professor, Computer Science and Engineering, supervises a demonstration of the latest in motion capture technology while student Nicholas Lee serves as a model. (photo by Jim Dexter)Enlarge

Victor Zordan, assistant professor, Computer Science and Engineering, supervises a demonstration of the latest in motion capture technology while student Nicholas Lee serves as a model. (photo by Jim Dexter)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering earned a Discovery Grant that provides the Department of Computer Science and Engineering with the tools to perform human motion capture, a popular technique for creating character animation. It also makes assistant professor Victor Zordan one of most popular professors around.

The project has far-reaching ramifications, too. Computer animation remains a critical resource for movies, television, and the electronic game industry. Its applications also stretch to general, vocational and medical education. The UCR project has the potential to increase the knowledge of students in motion capture and in the training of additional technology workers in California’s high-tech economy.

The advanced equipment manufactured and donated as part of the grant by Vicon Motion Systems records three-dimensional positions with infrared cameras and reflective markers placed on a human figure. The cameras collect data and a central software system assembles the data to measure the motion of a human actor. The motion capture equipment records the movements of the actor, but not his visual appearance. These movements are collected as animation data which is then mapped to a 3D character model created by a computer artist (e.g. humanoid, giant robot, etc.) The result is a character that moves the same way as the original actor. Zordan was awarded the grant to make improvements to this process of 'fitting' the data in order to better animate the character model.

“We’re employing a physics model as opposed to their current approach,” said Zordan. “The existing model can be jumpy because it doesn’t take into account limits such as finite acceleration. As a result, the character motion generated performs less like a natural figure. Our approach obeys physical limits in generating the fitting motion, so the character should act more naturally.”

Vicon has identified its own need to improve the processes for performing this mapping to better serve its client base, and has sought out the assistance of Zordan because of his precise expertise in this area. The proposed research will improve the quality and efficiency of existing mapping techniques, which in turn improves the utility, coverage and distribution of high-fidelity motion derived from the motion capture equipment.

“I think one interesting thing, in addition to the grant’s goal, is the access to this kind of equipment that goes beyond the scope of the proposed project,” said Zordan. For example, Zordan has already been in discussions with a psychology professor who is interested in using the motion capture technique to study gesture. “Once it is recorded, the proposed gestural experiment can be analyzed and used for further investigation.”
Vicon Motion Systems records three-dimensional positions with infrared cameras and reflective markers placed on a human figure provided by student Nicholas Lee. (photo by Jim Dexter)Enlarge

Vicon Motion Systems records three-dimensional positions with infrared cameras and reflective markers placed on a human figure provided by student Nicholas Lee. (photo by Jim Dexter)

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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