Seeking martial artists familiar with a variety of weapons, mocap systems, and performance movement, we enlisted Jeff Imada and Lauren Kim to assist with Project Orion – the next step on our path to building capability and applications with our motion capture system.
Overcoming Accuracy Challenges
Our motion capture system, the Perception Neuron, uses a new breed of IMU based tracking technology. It uses an array of 18-32 sensors, each with a highly accurate accelerometer and gyroscope. The system can record up to 120 samples per second and is designed from the ground up to integrate with virtual reality displays.
Unfortunately, this new technology, initially launched as a Kickstarter project, was a bit raw in terms of delivery. Both the software and hardware had significant issues that caused major accuracy challenges.
With the assistance of Dr. Mark Cheng, a performance movement specialist and sports medicine doctor, we were able to set up a series of tests to challenge the system’s accuracy and highlight problems. With years of motion capture experience, Aaron Abel, the technical director for Project Orion, was able to develop solutions for all of the accuracy issues.
Capturing Complex Movements
With accuracy dialed in, we decided our next logical progression would be to accurately capture a range of high-level martial arts movements. We wanted to record a variety of complex empty handed and weapons movements.
We enlisted the help of the legendary Jeff Imada, and Lauren Kim, a seasoned motion capture actress and stunt performer. Both have deep martial arts experience in a variety of styles and are proficient with a range of weapons systems.
With both Jeff and Lauren’s expertise with martial arts and performance movement for film, TV, and games, we were able to efficiently record 6 full sets of movements. We captured:
- Male and female empty handed attacks, blocks, evasions, and falls
- Dual wield short swords
- Dual wield blunt weapons (Kali sticks)
- Longsword (Wushu style)
Each set was captured in a comprehensive manner with some containing over 150 unique movements. Accuracy was fantastic and we are extremely pleased with our newly acquired ability to capture fast, complex, martial arts movements with our system.
We also captured less comprehensive sets of test data from even a greater variety of weapon systems including sai, nunchaku, pistols, and a sword and dagger dual-wield combo.
We’ve also added an extended “behind the scenes” video for Ikazuchi.TV subscribers showing Jeff Imada and Lauren Kim recording solo and paired movements with daggers, sai, short sword and dagger, Kali sticks, and empty hand vs. dagger. It’s amazing to see the skill displayed in this video from both a martial arts and movement performance perspective.
Developing a Product
With our learning objectives complete for this phase of exploration with our mocap system, we’ve decided to use our capture data as the foundation for a commercial product that’s scheduled to be released later this year. It’s not an instructional product – we still need to build more competency with the system and solve more problems before we can develop instructional or analysis based applications at a high level of quality. However, we are positioned to use our team’s martial arts and technical expertise to make a unique contribution to the entertainment world.
Our next Project Orion update will share more about the nature of our end product as well as our challenges and discoveries. We look forward to sharing more detail soon about our discoveries and progress.
Our Next Steps
In addition to completing Project Orion, our first motion-capture application, we will continue to advance our capabilities with the mocap system.
Now that we’ve been able to accurately capture a single subject, we will focus on recording a series of Aikido throws and movements with both nage and uke. We now have access to two suits and will begin testing the system’s ability to integrate and synchronize capture data from two subjects interacting with each other.
Once we are able to dial in this level of performance from the system, we’ll have a better idea of how we can harness it’s power for instructional and analysis purposes. With our next goal of capturing two subjects and their interactions, we’re ready to get Matsuoka Sensei involved. We’re excited to start recording Sensei’s movements as we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with IMU based motion capture technology.
This article is being co-published with the kind permission of Josh Gold Sensei of the Ikazuchi Dojo. The original article appears here.