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Motion Capture and 3D Tracking in the World of Robotics

Updated: Mar 28

Most of us are already aware of Motion Capture (or ‘MoCap’ to give it its snappy vernacular) and 3D tracking, even if we’re not exactly sure what it is.

The 'One Ring' from the Lord of the Rings franchise

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson used both to capture the dynamic movements of actor Andy Serkis with specially designed optics focused on strategically placed markers attached to his body. In this instance, Jackson was using MoCap and 3D tracking to resolve a creative issue i.e., take Gollum off the page and, after the assembled data was processed, give the revolting little fellow life on the screen.

We use a more sophisticated version of this technology in our Animation and VFX department to make music videos, games, movies and so on, but MoCap/3D tracking can be used in a variety of other disciplines that don’t involve precious rings or “pocketses” e.g Biomechanics, Sport and Leisure Sciences, to decisively capture the human form in motion for research or analytical purposes and, if you haven’t guessed by the title, Robotics.

View of Target3D's studio two, dedicated motion capture volume

By the way, if you want to skip to the end and discover how all this robotic stuff works in reality, we’d be delighted to show you at our London mocap studio where you can get your paws on our gear and test all this wonderful technology out for yourself. Click here to book an appointment or read on…

So, in Robotics, MoCap/3D tracking can be used to scrutinise the accuracy of onboard sensors in autonomous vehicles such as the gyros, altimeters and GPS pertinent to flight control in drones. We’re currently applying aspects of these technologies for the European Space Agency to develop robots to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no robot has gone before... But you might be more interested in how we’re using Robotics to simplify, or simply revolutionise, the workspace.

A black and white photograph from the 1960s of robots on a car assembly line

Robots have been used for decades in the manufacture of vehicles -the first industrial robot system appeared in New Jersey on a General Motors assembly line in 1961- but these days industrial automation is a key component of operations in a multitude of industries outside of manufacturing.

One of the most common sectors for the use of MoCap/3D tracking technology exists in warehouses where robots are tasked with locating, collecting and delivering a specific item to designated zones. As this sort of technology is becoming ever more common, it’s also getting more sophisticated thanks to amazing teams such as ours. 

Robotic arms performing surgery on a patient under the control of a surgeon as medical staff watch

Amazon, for example, has Digits, humanoid robots with advanced dexterity that are used to pick and pack orders for shipment. But this is a relatively mundane use of this technology when we consider its life-saving potential, like teleoperation surgery, where haptics and MoCap/3D tracking provide instant feedback to a surgeon using a dual-arm robot to operate remotely on a patient. Many of us are already familiar with the use of real-time human motion to control a robot for operations in hostile environments, like working on space stations or even extra-terrestrial landscapes where going outside would be a really, really bad idea for us simple earth creatures. 

This is all very cool, but how can MoCap/3D tracking and Robotics help with your business? Well, at Target3D we don’t just provide creative solutions to your operations, we physically design and build bespoke closed-loop systems for robots, whether they’re required indoors, outside or even in the air: back to earth, we worked with Cambridge University to enhance their Robotics Motion Capture Space at Prorok Lab, after we installed their first system in 2019. The upgrade was required to test some new ideas in the functioning of autonomous vehicles in physical and virtual spaces for a variety of applications, transport, logistics, surveillance monitoring and the like.

You can read all about that at your leisure (there is a link to some case studies at the bottom of this page) the point is that we have a consultancy team and facilities to solve virtually any related problem to your specific requirements and no job is too big/small. And speaking of ‘virtually’, we're experts in both AR and VR, so let's quickly touch on how both of these elements converge on the subject of previsualization technology in construction.

An employee of XYZ Reality wearing a high vis vest and hard hat looks at an AR menu

Anyone conversant with the ghostly works of MR James will have happened across his short story ‘A View from a Hill’ in which the protagonist spies an abbey through a pair of binoculars, but without the required lorgnette, there is no such construction (or is there?) By using Positional Validation with MoCap/3D tracking technology, architects and engineers can precisely map and digitally simulate a blueprint and, with a compatible VR headset, it's possible to physically walk within the virtual walls of a pre-existing creation. And unlike the MR James version, there’s no surprise ending, just a bunch of boring old data you can use for testing, funding and marketing before a single brick has been laid, with the potential to save/make a fat wedge.

It doesn’t stop in the planning stages either, industrial robots are already being used to undertake construction tasks where precision is mandatory. For example, we worked with Loughborough University to help tidy up the messy issue of ensuring 3D-printed concrete was being manufactured as stipulated in the blueprint.

You can find more on that plus a bunch of additional case studies here, but we strongly advise you to get in touch first, simply because it’s much easier to explain how we can help from specific questions (rather than you second guessing answers) and because of the pace the technology is progressing.

If you would like to contact the team directly you can contact our consultants via email or call us on +44 0203 488 2575



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