On a mission to democratize motion capture technology, one Danish startup has crammed an entire studio into a wireless suit.
As its name would suggest, motion capture refers to the process of recording the movement of objects or people. This technique is commonly used throughout the military, entertainment, sports and medical industries, as well as for robotics and validation of computer vision. However, its price and required expertise has kept the technology out of reach for most people. With aspirations of democratizing it, Copenhagen-based startup Rokoko Electronics has developed a sensor-laden, plug-and-play suit that can be used in a wide range of applications that extend well beyond virtual reality.
The wireless motion-capturing garment, called Salto, is embedded with 19 sensors along with a central hub. A glove-like extension for the hands is also available, which is comprised of an extra seven sensors that pair with the textile suit for additional interaction and finger tracking capabilities.
As mentioned before, VR support is only one of its many intended uses; in fact, the suit is designed to be intuitive, simple-to-wear, and most importantly, accessible so that anyone can start working with motion capture technology. The idea is that, if you know how to put on your clothes, you will be able to use Salto. To date, the wearable has been employed by everyone from film producers looking to test characters and scenes, to golfers and tennis players wanting to track and improve their game.
Here’s how it works: 19 sensor nodes are attached directly to the suit, strategically placed over all moving body parts. Data from each sensor is collected by the hub and transmitted via Wi-Fi or cable to your computer. Using the Salto Studio program, data can be easily streamed, recorded, played back and exported to another device. What’s nice is that Salto can be seamlessly integrated with third party applications as well, like Unity, Oculus, Samsung Gear and MotionBuilder, which ideally will allow people to engage in all kinds of virtual spaces.
“With our mocap suit Salto you get all the unique features in your body — the way you look when you take a deep breath, the way you articulate with your arms when you talk, etc. — all of these details accurately transferred to the virtual world,” the Danish startup writes.
In terms of hardware, each node is equipped with a 9-axis IMU board and an Atmel | SMART MCU for calibration and data processing. Looking ahead, the team says that it will make an SDK and an assortment software plugins available for developers. This SDK will contain all of the necessary code and libraries to get an app up and running with the C#, C++, Java and Python programming languages. Beyond that, the software plugins are compatible with many third party services.
“The virtual reality experience is not going to be complete with just the visual side. You absolutely need to have an input and output system that is fully integrated, so you not only have a really natural way to view the virtual world but also a natural way to interact with it,” its creators explain.
Interested? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Rokoko Electronics is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.
Very excited about this – similar to the Perception Neuron system, except you can get two Saltos with hands for the price of one PN suit. My only reservation is how unpopular IMUs are with the big times, as they still rely on optical systems. I wonder if there’s a good reason for that, or if it’s because they’ve already invested the money and don’t like change.
Honestly, I was thinking about building a suit of my own out of IMUs, but for $700, may as well buy one already built and programmed.