The University of Bath’s Computer Science department is embarking on an exciting new research project: a £5 million Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research & Applications (CAMERA), which aims to utilise motion capture technologies, currently dominated by the film and gaming industry, to track detailed motion information without needing tracking suits and bring it back into the health, sport, and rehabilitation sectors.

Co-founding the project is Dr Darren Cosker, Royal Society Industry Fellow from the University’s Department of Computer Science, who told us, “This is a really exciting project that takes new advances in this technology back to its roots in biomechanics and will use it in a range of new areas from training elite athletes to rehabilitating injured service personnel.”

“The most exciting thing about the new centre is the fact that it places experts from entertainment, sport and rehabilitation under one roof – a very rare event”

 

Presently, tight fitting spotted tracking suits are required in order to create the animation effect on non-human characters in films or computer games that we are all familiar with. However, CAMERA hope to eradicate the need for these suits and subsequently improve the efficiency of motion capture technology.

Check out this video of Dr Cosker explaining where he wants to take CAMERA:

CAMERA: Centre for motion capture research at the University of Bath from University of Bath on Vimeo.
 

Mo-cap collaboration

There are three areas CAMERA hope will benefit from motion capture progresses: the entertainment industry, enhancing athletic performances and developing technologies to aid amputees.

As Dr Cosker explains: “The most exciting thing about the new centre is the fact that it places experts from entertainment, sport and rehabilitation under one roof – a very rare event. Usually these groups work independently and in parallel. Advances and insights in one area are therefore not capitalised on in another – slowing overall progress. The potential to apply research in one area to another is made even more exciting by the potential for ‘industries’ in one sector to contribute to another sector. This can only be good news.”

CAMERA are working alongside specialists in the motion capture entertainment industry including The Imaginarium and The Foundry, as well as BMT Defence Services, British Skeleton and The Ministry of Defence to focus on the fitness and recovery aspect of the new developments. More establishments such as Bath & North East Somerset Council, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Bath Innovation Centre, are also helping with the project to allow it to reach the heights CAMERA are aspiring to.

“Obtrusive motion capture suits required for accurate human body motion analysis will no longer be required”

 

The Imaginarium, that was co-founded by actor Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, wants to see further progresses for the film industry. The visual-effects company says, “we’re looking forward to working with researchers from the University of Bath on this innovative and exciting project.” The potential for motion capture is vast and could drastically change the way visual effects are seen on screen.

CAMERA explain they wish to “build long term collaborations” with any companies that motion capture could be an asset to.

Advanced visualisation techniques

camera-motion-capture-university-of-bathThe project will revert motion capture back to its origins and take advantage of the progresses made, Dr Cosker (pictured on the right with Maree Perkins) explains, “We’re aiming to develop this technology further – using advances in computer vision and graphics – so that obtrusive motion capture suits required for accurate human body motion analysis will no longer be required. This will mean that actors can be filmed in costume, athletes’ performance can be assessed in a normal training session, and amputee patients can have clinical physiotherapy assessments in their own homes.”

For those who have lost limbs and require a prosthetic replacement, this will be immensely beneficial. The new technology will improve the quality prosthetics, eliminating any restrictive movements and hopefully improve the speed of rehabilitation.

Elite athletes will also be able to monitor their progress more effectively as training without wearing tracking suits should be viable thanks to CAMERA’s work. Dr Cosker tells us: “We wish to provide biomechanical data in every day training sessions – not just a biomechanics lab.” This means a more realistic assessment of movements can be done to identify any problem areas and how to improve on these and also easier access to do this effectively. Additionally, it should help the recovery of any injuries the athlete’s endure.

Naturally the advancements will also be felt by the entertainment industry, “Our research will increase the quality of actor motion capture,” says Dr Cosker, “the ability to easily use this technology outside the studio, the realism of virtual characters and actors, and the reduction of production costs and times.”

Big things for the South West

The University of Bath is already renowned for its research in computer vision and graphics, as well as the up and coming credibility for its research on Sport and Rehabilitation and so made a fitting location for CAMERA to launch this project in.

CAMERA is a huge breakthrough for Bath as it will see the first motion capture studio in the region that is available for commercial use.

The founders of the project want to encourage companies to fully utilise the facilities in order to develop and produce their work. The idea is that by opening up the studio, more research can take place that will allow developments in motion capture to continue into the distant future.

“Our motion capture studio, with existing contemporary optical motion analysis technology, will be ready for use by Autumn 2015”

 

Dr Darren Cosker says, “We are keen to inform the wider public about the potentially for this technology, and will reach out to the local area, including schools and universities. Students studying at Bath will have access to CAMERA, as well as other research groups and interested companies around the world.”

The general public have already had a taste of what developments in motion capture technology has to offer in the entertainment sector, with game stations such as the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360 and the CAMERA team want to push this further as technology becomes more sophisticated.

As developments are going on in various sectors, some will take longer than others, but bringing motion capture to Bath could potentially mean big things for the area. And we, for one, are looking forward to seeing what people do with CAMERA!

 Many thanks to Dr Cosker for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. For more updates from Bath University, follow@UniofBath.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.