Capture the moment

It’s a rare thing that i get excited about anything that vomits forth from the maw of Micro$oft, however there’s an exception to every rule and, whilst i’m not exactly turning cartwheels over their latest launch, i am watching with interest to see how things pan out because it’s potentially good news for sl content.

i’m talking about the launch of Kinect for Windows and you may wonder why on earth this particular piece of kit has grabbed my attention, since i’m neither a gamer nor do i have any interest in ex-boxes, (or whatever they’re called).

Those of you more familiar with such things may be thinking of the potential that a plug and play Kinect for your PC has for controlling your avatar – personally, i think that could be a recipe for disaster: Can you imagine trying to negotiate an unfamiliar Sim, merely by waving your arms around in front of the PC, whilst trying to type in local chat at the same time? Somehow, i can’t see it catching on, although i daresay someone will come up with some sort of Kinect enabled HUD for some purpose or other.

i’m far more interested in the potential this innovation has in terms of motion capture. Up until now, the creation of of mocap animations for sl has either been the preserve of the well-off, or the professional with high-end, purpose built motion capture hardware and sophisticated 3D movement software, or the enterprising geek, using cheap and cheerful mocap software and jury-rigged webcams, or similar. True, it’s been perfectly possible to set up a couple of non-PC Kinects and through a bit of technical chicanery create .bvh files from the footage that can be uploaded to sl, but it’s all a bit hit and miss and lacks the refinement that bespoke mocap equipment produces with ease but at a high price.

You can, of course avoid the expense of motion capture entirely – creating your own animations is a fairly straightforward, if time-consuming, process that most people could pick up fairly intuitively. The difficulty with creating convincing animations is however, how to make them convincing! Whilst almost anyone can make an animation, there are far fewer people who really should be allowed to make animations! This is why the new possibilities that arise from being able to plug a Kinect directly into your computer are extremely interesting. At last, we see the potential of mocap for the masses, (or at least those masses who don’t mind shelling out the currently rather high price for the new kit). There’s already plenty of software capable of generating decent .bvh files from Kinect input and, without all the tiresome business of mucking about with home-made connectors and weird and wonderful configurations, now pretty much anyone can create their own realistic and lifelike animations without too much effort.

As someone who’s agonised many a time over which AO to use for a pleasing and natural appearance, i’ve frequently wished i could import my own rl movements and walks into sl. Then there’s those movements you’d love to see your avatar perform but nobody ever seems to have come up with them, and how about those custom moves that you really need for particular scenarios and situations? Perhaps all of those things have taken a step closer towards being within our reach and it won’t be long before we can choose not only exactly how we want to look in the virtual world but can also customise each and every move, so that every one of us is completely unique and as individual as the person watching on the other side of the screen in the physical world.

Interesting times ahead, i think.

s. x

You know you’re a twisty little girl, (twist little girl)
You know you twist so fine. (twist so fine)
The Beatles – Twist And Shout 

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