After debuting in Japan, earlier this year, Sony is finally ready to bring Mocopi — the company’s smartphone-based wearable motion-tracking system — to the U.S., and while it arrives with a slight price bump, it’s still a far more affordable alternative to building an entire mocap studio or surrounding a room in sensors.
Motion capture, where a real-life performer’s movements are recorded by a computer and then applied to a virtual character, is now a critical tool for video game development and the visual effects industry as it not only streamlines the animation process for CG characters, it also facilitates more lifelike and nuanced movements. But when big budgets are involved, the motion capture systems used can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, fill an entire warehouse, and require performers to wear special suits or subject themselves to a face covered in painted dots.
As virtual YouTubers and influencers continue to rise in popularity, more affordable motion capture solutions have started appearing over the past few years, with even Sony now getting in on the action with Mocopi. Its system relies on just six motion trackers, which look a lot like Apple’s AirTags but with a splash of colour, that each features a 3DoF accelerometer for tracking physical movements and a 3DoF angular rate sensor to track their orientation in 3D space.
The trackers all charge in a carrying case at the same time using just a single USB cable, and magnetically attach to straps or clips worn on a performer’s wrists, ankles, hip, and head, with labels ensuring they’re always attached to the right body part. Each of the Mocopi trackers communicates its positional data to an accompanying smartphone app over Bluetooth where users can control a virtual character, but that data can also be shared to a PC over wifi in real-time to control CG characters in other apps, like VRChat, or leveraged for other apps through a software development kit that’s already available.
With a price tag of $US449 when Mocopi ships out to U.S. customers starting on July 14, it’s a much cheaper solution than using a full VR system like the HTC Vive which costs several thousand dollars when you factor in the individual trackers and base stations used for capturing positional data — although you can certainly expect more accuracy from pricier solutions as the Mocopi system only captures data at 50Hz. It’s also not as cheap as solutions like SlimeVR which captures data at 100Hz, minimizes lag through an entirely wifi-based communication system, and costs $US190 for a six-tracker setup, but with Mocopi it looks like you can stash an entire motion capture solution in your back pockets.
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