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SIGGRAPH 2023: Manus on motion capture, AI, mocap market trends

This article is available in: French

At SIGGRAPH 2023, we had the opportunity to meet Bart Loosman, Manus CEO. This company is specialized in creating motion capture gloves. We asked Manus about their solutions, the mocap market , as well as their take on AI and its impact on motion capture.

Magnetic motion capture

Manus sells gloves aimed at the VR and motion capture markets.

In a nutshell, the glove creates a magnetic field around the hand, and sensors are placed on the fingertips. These can then measure the position and orientation in the 3D space, without any drift.
An inverse kinematic model is then used: using the location and orientation of each fingertip, the software will compute the skeleton of the hand from the endpoint of each finger back to the wrist.

According to Manus, a light filtering of the RAW data is done, but there is “no secret sauce, just really good data” at the heart of the process. The data you end up with should require “almost no cleaning”, explains Manus. The mocap data can then be streamed/sent to Unity, Unreal Engine, MotionBuilder, VRED, OpenXR apps, as well as body capture solutions such as Xsens MVN, Motive by Optitrack. As Manus explained us, they created a framework to be “compatible with almost everything”.
Calibration is fairly simple. Manus explains that you really only need to do it once.

Motion capture: the market is down this year

We also asked Manus CEO Bart Loosman about the motion capture market: last year at SIGGRAPH, there were many mocap companies, with multiples new solutions.

Bart Loosman explained us that motion capture is, in the end, an old market. Well known companies like Optitrack, Vicon are 25 to 30 years old. Manus also stated that the technology tused by these companies is not that new: the same principles were already in use ten years ago. Therefore, according to Manus, the field is not changing as fast as one could think, and motion capture is relatively stable. This is one reason why they like this market : it’s “sturdy and reliable”. When a customers buys a reliable solution, they won’t switch to a new one in the next five years. This constrasts with another market targeted by Manus: VR, which is evolving much more rapidly, with new headsets, new tech every year.

That being said, this has been a rough year for mocap across the board. The entertainement/gaming market is taking a hit: prices are going up, there are budget cuts, people lose their jobs. To sum things up: they’re seing a drop in the market, especially when it comes to the professional layer of motion capture. That being said, creators on TikTok, Instagram as well as hobbyists are buying more and more motion capture solutions: there is a “large explosion” in young people willing to create content.

Bart Loosman also highlighted that the writers/actors strike in the US, the crackdown in China on gaming and tech firms definitely had an impact. He thinks that the market will get back to normal in the next few years, though.

Bart Loosman – Manus

Is AI a threat for dedicated motion capture solutions?

Last, but not least, we asked Bart Loosman his views on AI, and more specifically AI-based mocap. We are indeed seing new tools touting mocap from videos, without any dedicated hardware.

Manus He explained us that some companies working on AI actually bought their products: they use mocap data to train their models. Even though AI is dreaded as the technology that will “kill everything”, Manus CEO Bart Loosman told us that his personal opinion was that AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Which means that according to him, AI won’t become better than dedicated mocap solutions. It will “never be 100%”, he added, whereas with a dedicated hardware mocap solution, you can get ” the 100% data that the AI is trying to achieve.”

He added that there is indeed space for AI at the low end of the market, with low cost solutions such as Move AI. But that as you go to the higher end of the spectrum, AI won’t be competitive enough, he insisted. The capture won’t be as good.

For more information about Manus, you can check out their official website. You will also find below their latest sizzle reel.

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