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What Is Kinect® Motion Capture?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kinect® motion capture typically refers to either the use of the basic Kinect® hardware and software for playing games and using other tools that require motion sensing technology, or the use of hacked hardware and other software to use a Kinect® device for motion capture in animation. The most basic usage of this term is in reference to the intended use of the Kinect® device to monitor and sense physical motion for use in game input or user interface (UI) navigation. Kinect® motion capture, however, can also refer to the use of Kinect® hardware and other software in creating motion capture information for use in computer animation.

The Kinect® device that is used in creating Kinect® motion capture is a small electronic device designed to function with a secondary system such as an Xbox 360™ gaming console or a computer. This device includes two major pieces of hardware, which are a microphone and an infrared camera. The microphone is used by Kinect® systems to receive and understand voice commands. Its camera can be used for Kinect® motion capture and is able to distinguish human figures within a three-dimensional (3D) space and track their motions.

Kinect® motion capture typically consists of the use of a Kinect® device for finding and tracking human figures interacting with the device. This basically works through a system in which the device projects an infrared grid into an area, which is then picked up by the camera and used to create a 3D representation of the area. Within this computer model, software can be used to isolate human figures and then track the motion of those figures. This kind of Kinect® motion capture allows people to use their bodies to control characters within a Kinect® video game or to interact with a virtual UI.

More unusual uses of Kinect® motion capture utilize a Kinect® device with other software. This device is typically “hacked” to function with a computer and software other than what is provided on an Xbox 360™. Motion capture software has been developed for use with a Kinect® device and allows the device to not only track a human figure, but to also track specific points on that figure indicated by white ping-pong balls stuck onto the person. Each of these balls is used to represent a particular joint or other location important for proper human animation.

These balls are then generated within the computer software as specific points on a simple 3D figure. This process is referred to as Kinect® motion capture. The motion capture data can then be used to animate a more complex 3D figure.

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