Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) enable tiny sensors to perform stunning feats including tracking the orientation of a live character's entire body so that animation software can render them super heros. Look for inertial MEMS motion sensors to move from automotive and consumer into entertainment, medical, sports and other applications where motion matters over the rest of the decade. R.C.J.
MEMS inertial measurement units enabled the life-like animations in the films "Iron Man" and "Alice in Wonderland." Actors wearing a MEMS motion suit from Xsens Technologies B.V. (Los Angeles and The Netherlands) pre-visualized the movies for film makers. Analog Devices worked with Xsens on the project...the partners have working for a decade using inertial MEMS sensors to solve a number of problems like active stabilization in ground vehicles, submarines and aircraft as well as for virtual reality simulation and training. The common element is the inertial measurement unit (IMU) Xsens makes out of MEMS sensors. The traditional way to track actors motion is with a black suit dotted with reflective markers--white dots--which unfortunately only work well in a dark studio with dozens of camera surrounding the scene. Unfortunately, even in a dark studio, an actor's body shields some of the white dots some of the time leaving holes in the tracking data, which have to be manually filled in during post-production which can take days or even weeks to perform. Unlike traditional special effects black suits dotted with reflective spots, Xsens' body suit uses 17 IMUs to track body orientation during action sequences. Actors wear the motion suit under a regular costume to simultaneously capture their motion. Each of the 17 IMUs used by the battery powered motion suit have three ADI high-speed single-axis gyros that track rotational motion, two high-speed two-axis accelerometers to track linear motion, plus magnetometers to provide a heading. Game producers are also using the Xsens suit to create animated characters.
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