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RFID Advances Video Game Development

Ultra-wideband technology will enable game developers to capture real-time motion from multiple actors; future applications include health care.
By Laurie Sullivan
Aug 25, 2009Ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID technology could advance video game development and special effects in the motion picture industry, by allowing companies to capture real-time motion information from several actors at once. This is being made possible thanks to Xsens Technologies, a Netherlands-based firm that designs three-dimensional tracking applications.

Xsens has incorporated UWB real-time location technology from Time Domain to advance its full-body cameraless motion-capture system. The new tracking application, dubbed MVN, aims to make it easier for companies such as Electronic Arts, Industrial Light and Magic, Sony Pictures Imageworks, THQ and other video game and entertainment industry firms to digitally reproduce realistic movements of actors.

MVN employs a distributed network of 17 inertial sensors, which use accelerometers and rate gyroscopes to track motions in 3-D (inertial sensors are used in the Nintendo Wii remote control unit, as well as the Wii MotionPlus, to determine players' movements). The inertial sensors, affixed to a suit worn by actors under their clothes, form a distributed wireless network.

An actor portraying a character in a video game dons a sensor-lined suit. The sensors enable visual effects developers to track and capture joint, head, hand, leg and full-body movements, in real time, to re-create scenes in a video game. The sensors, which communicate to a hub worn on the body—which then sends the data wirelessly to a receiver connected to a PC or laptop, using Xsens's proprietary protocol—eliminate line-of-sight restrictions associated with existing camera systems.

The sensor data is processed in Xsens' MVN Studio software, which provides real-time motion capture visualization, playback and editing. From the MVN Studio application, a user can choose to stream real-time data to other applications, such as Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max, or to export files in various file formats.

The Xsens MVN system can be utilized without using UWB tags, but the company integrated Time Domain's PLUS tags and real-time location system (RTLS) technology to add accurate and absolute positioning data, enabling the simultaneous use of MVN suits by several actors. This, the company reports, eliminates the need to record each actor's movements separately, and then integrate the virtual actors digitally into a single scene.

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