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Motion capture lab dedicated at SSU

PORTSMOUTH — Have you seen the hit movie “Avatar”? At Shawnee State University, a Motion Capture Lab opened that has the capability of creating its own “avatars.”

On Friday, Feb. 19, the new Motion Capture (MOCAP) Lab was dedicated and officially opened. The Motion Capture Lab is a component of the Immersive Technology and Arts Center (ITAC) being established in the university’s Advanced Technology Center.

The MOCAP lab comprises of a PhaseSpace 32-camera system, supporting computers, and software housed in a specially configured room with walls painted a non-photo green to provide a neutral image background.

The digital simulation and the gaming arts degree programs will use the lab as an instructional lab enabling SSU students to work with a commercial state-of-the art motion capture system that is used in interactive media and engineering applications.

“Motion Capture is a critical addition to our gaming and simulation programs and is a vital step in our plans to develop an Immersive Technology and Arts Center — or ITAC, as most of you have referred to it,” SSU President Rita Rice Morris said. “Our Motion Capture Studio, as part of the future ITAC, will contribute to the creation of 21st century jobs in southern Ohio, particularly in the emerging gaming industry.”

The lab functions using a person wearing a suit equipped with active LED markers, who then engages in body movements.

As the person moves, his/her movements are captured as a function of the movement and position of their body markers. The movements are imported into a computer equipped with motion capture software, and then inserted into a software program to animate an avatar or other figure.

In addition to human subjects, the system can also be applied to the motion of mechanical and robotic devices.

Other system applications include areas such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, athletic training and vocational training, in short, any area where the study of body movement is involved. Additional work is underway on the facility to provide for computers and for video editing and sound synthesis and capture.

The university is planning to make the facility available outside the university to firms who are looking to do motion capture.

The vision is that the facility would promote economic development in southeastern Ohio by encouraging high technology enterprises to come to the area, as well as encouraging start-up companies.

To move in this direction, the MOCAP Lab has been proposed as a component of the Center of Excellence presented by Shawnee State to the Ohio Board of Regents.

Through this concept, the digital programs the university offers can be expanded to promote a state-wide and national presence of the simulation technology and gaming arts programs, support regional economic development, and establish south-central Ohio as a significant player in the information and digital-driven national and global economy of the 21st Century.

In addition to being supported by the university, MOCAP has been made possible by donations from the community to Shawnee State through its Development Foundation, and state and federal funds.

For additional information regarding the facility, please contact Carl Hilgarth, professor and department chair, Engineering Technologies, e-mail chilgarth@shawnee.edu or call (740) 351-3595 or Greg Lyons, assistant professor and department chair, Fine, Digital & Performing Arts, e-mail glyons@shawnee.edu or call (740) 351-3004.