A Fully Wireless Motion-Capture System

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Traditionally, motion capture systems cost between $30,000 and half a million, explains Mike Sutherland, vice president of technology at YEl Technology. That was until his team at YEl developed a fully wireless system for $4,000 - which turned a lot of heads.

Soon after the company released the initial prototype, the applications for such a system in the consumer space, specifically in gaming and virtual reality, became apparent with the release of products such as the Oculus VR. However, the cost of the suit was still too steep for a consumer marketplace, so the team kept working on it, spending five years developing an experience around sensors.

The Oculus VR is a virtual reality goggle, but according to Sutherland, it lacks user body awareness. After successfully reaching price parity, YEl brought the PrioVR to Kickstarter, raising $250,000; and while there were no challenges raising production funds, many challenges were met along the way.

"One of the core engineering challenges was developing an algorithm that ' is able to use these low cost sensors," explains Sutherland. "How do you know when someone's walking, jumping, or running?"

The answer to this question is where YEl thinks it will be able to stand out in the market, as the PrioVR requires no external system to monitor the user's orientation. Instead, the suit is entirely self-contained and fully aware of the person's location and how they are moving around the environment.

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"We arrange different sensors and use our sensor fusion lP to create really accurate orientation  sensors", explains Sutherland. "We use an accelerometer a gyroscope, and a magnometer Individually those sensors can't give you a reliable orientation information, but with sensors fusion, you end up with one solid reading."

Sensor fusion is the generic term for the combination of a range of different sensors and their respective data "into something more useful", as Sutherland explains. lt has become a hot topic as of late (as has virtual reality) with the emergence of the aforementioned Oculus VR.

Currently, the team is working on how to make the suit more accessible, creating a roadmap for the  consumer space with the goal of getting the sensors into wearables with a very low profile and minimal design. "The technology should become invisible to the user", says Sutherland.

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Kickstarting a Future

According to Sutherland, one of Kickstarter's most powerful aspects is engaging in a community of  people who are interested in the product. "We know the people who are really passionate about the product, and we can get direct feedback from them before we've even launched the product", he adds.

The company has worked with backers over the past few months to make sure the product is up to their standards.YEI has even extended the delivery date in order to spend more time perfecting the suit.

Many backers are gamers who are interested in using the suit to expand their virtual reality experience, but the PrioVR is also opening up a toolkit that has traditionally been out of reach to independent developers and artists - motion capture for game development and film animation.

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Virtual reality and motion capture make up a 50/50 split in the company's consumer base, but Sutherland
is beginning to see interest from the industrial side, in training and simulation. This can range anywhere from military training, to basic manual jobs that are looking for off-site training opportunities.

"We are [also] seeing interest in healthcare in rehabilitation, measuring joint movement and recovery rate, and in sports therapy and coaching," adds Sutherland. The suit could also play a role in robotics, providing direct human movement feedback in applications such as bomb disposal, where the operator
may be miles away.

YEI has already worked with the military NASA, U.S. Navy, Dreamworks, and a number of other companies looking for 3D orientation information, and continues to find new ways to combine sensors together to make the PrioVR both faster and easier to use.

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Posted from: Product Design & Development magazine, Sept 2014 edition

Author: Melissa Fassbender

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