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Interview with Motion Capture System Developers

inertial motion capture

Q. – Hello, What prompted you to build a motion capture system?

We are Yasser El-Sherbiny and Khaled Wagdy, two computer engineers with great passion for 3d computer animation and development; we studied at the same university where the dream began as our graduation project, when we decided to use our knowledge as computer engineers to develop affordable motion capture & animation solutions to play a role in improving the productivity and quality of the animation and gaming industries here in Egypt.

We’ve seen over the past few years how motion capture changed the filmmaking, animation and gaming industries, but unfortunately commercial motion capture systems are extremely expensive to get and operate making it difficult for small and medium sized companies or even independent users with small budgets to take advantage of its features.

And we have so many talents here in Egypt, if they have access to the right technology they will compete on the international market.  So we decided to play even if it’s a small role in providing them with high quality affordable motion capture solutions.

We spent the last few months developing the hardware (the IMUs) and software for this system, as well as the real-time plugins for the commercial and known 3D software packages( like Autodesk’s 3ds Max, Maya and more to come) for ease of use and real-time display, so the end-user doesn’t need to learn new tools to use our system.

Q. From how many months/years are you working on this project? What's the strength of your team?

It started six years ago, when we decided to develop an optical motion capture system using just webcams as our graduation project, and we proved that you don’t have to use 24 cameras (at least) with 2000fps to build a motion capture system, we’re not comparing the qualities, but at least now you can have a solution if you are not a multi-million dollars company.

But with the lack of resources and opportunities, we couldn’t get any further with this project, couple of years later we decided to develop electro-mechanical system, as a proof of concept that we can manufacture a complete real-time system and integrate it with the commercial 3d softwares, to get us the proper fund to develop and complete inertial motion capture system, but again we’ve been faced by a lot non-believers and a lot of obstacles that almost killed the dream, until the last year when we witnessed engineering breakthroughs in the field of MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems -the technology behind inertia sensors) which made it possible to introduce average consumer to technology previously available only to the military and large corporations. This is when we decided, we’ll do it on our own and we won’t wait for fund any longer.

So we started developing by the end of 2010, then unfortunately for the project but it was for the good of the country the revolution began, so we had to delay the project a couple of months, then five months later, it was finished.

The strength of our team of two, in one word I would say DETERMINATION.

Q. How often are you planning to update the software/hardware?

We are always developing, always looking for new techniques and technologies to make our systems/tools more efficient and easy to use, we won’t stop there we have so many things to come, we won’t restrict ourselves by a type of technology, we’ll evolve as long as the technology evolves, and this industry is moving so fast so we got to keep up, because what’s good today might not suit you tomorrow.

Q. What sort of feedback have you received on your new venture?

Positive actually, although we’re still at a very early stage but there was many respected companies interested in our system.

Q. What’s the difference in your motion capture and other motion capture devices available in the industry?

Inertial motion capture systems, have the advantage over the optical systems of being portable, easy to use and doesn’t require dedicated large spaces with special conditions, you can use it anywhere and gives the freedom to move without any restrictions.

We tried to make our system as easy to use as we can, so we developed real-time plugins to commercial 3D packages like Autodesk’s 3ds Max, Maya and more to come, to integrate our system with these softwares, so the user doesn’t have to learn new tools to use our system, you can control/animate your character and interact with the scene objects in real-time.

Also we added data gloves to our system, to capture the fingers motion, and pretty soon we’ll integrate our facial motion capture with the full-body system to create a performance capture, to capture not only the full-body motion but the facial expressions as well.

Q. Which type of computer hardware or minimum requirements to run your motion capture system? Is this runs on Mac and windows both platform?

Nothing fancy, a regular 2GHz 1GB RAM with Bluetooth laptop would be enough. Right now it supports only windows platform but we are working on the mac version and will be available soon.

Q. At this time how much accurate the data is? And what’s the limitation, if any?

It’s pretty accurate actually; the sensors accuracy is about 0.5Deg, and even though this is our first version of this type but people who used other systems are very satisfied with the output compared to these systems.

As for the limitation, like any non-optical system, the global position of the performer will always be calculated and not exact, so there will be some accumulative positional errors, but it won’t affect the animation unless it’s for a very long sessions and covering a very large area. We developed a stereo-cam rig to track the 3d position to solve this problem, it’s very easy to use and setup with millimeters accuracy and covering a wide space, but it’s not a part of our system yet as we are still looking into RF solutions.

Q. What’s the cost of this motion capture you decide for the industry?

We haven’t decided yet, but we intend it to be much affordable compared to other systems without sacrificing the quality. After all this was our goal from the beginning.

Q. Who’s funding your project or still looking for investors?

Till now we are self-funded and we are currently looking for investors.

Q. What is the next step for you?

We’ll complete the performance capture (for the simultaneous capturing of the full-body and facial expression).  Currently we are getting in contact with pilot customers to offer our animation services for real production testing and gathering their feedback; in parallel we are contacting VCs for funding to startup our company and begin distributing our systems.

Thanks a lot for taking out sometime for us from your busy schedule.

Thanks for having us.


Yasser El-Sherbiny (left): Computer engineer worked as a technical director in animation and visual effects studios developing tools and creating systems that makes the artists life much easier.

Khaled Wagdy (right): Computer engineer with 3+ of experience in the IT field, a robotics enthusiast with great passion for 3d computer graphics.

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