MOTION CAPTURE INDUSTRY and MARKETS
Motion capture is the process of recording movement and translating that movement into digital data for later use by graphic and analytical software.
Motion capture has traditionally been a studio and laboratory based technology with studio installations costing $50,000 or more, with the very least expensive single unit starting at $3,000. Due to this high cost the marketplace of motion capture has traditionally been limited to universities, motion picture and animation studios, hospitals, professional sports, and the military. With this limited a marketplace there are relatively few, dozens not hundreds, of companies producing motion capture hardware. There are also a very limited range of expensive specialized applications. Using HIVE technology, the cost of motion capture hardware can reasonably be reduced to $100 or $200 creating entirely new mass markets in countless fields, and also opening up the entertainment and gaming marketplaces for the first time.
Currently there are currently 6 fundamental types of motion capture systems. I've listed them in order of their market share. Optical is probably 80% or greater: Optical, Inertial, Mechanical, Magnetic and RF positioning.
OPTICAL MOTION CAPTURE
Optical motion capture is, by far, the most common and is, itself, divided into 3 major categories:
1. Passive Markers: the golf-ball like markers usually coated with a reflective covering.
2. Active Markers: usually LEDs that flash in specific patterns in order to identify the location tracked
3. Marker-less Optical Analysis: a relatively new technology using technology based on face and pattern recognition software to locate and track
In marker-based optical systems, makers are placed on the locations to be tracked and then multiple cameras film the motion. Software then analyzes the video tracking the markers The video from the multiple cameras can then be integrated so that the markers motion can extrapolated into 3 dimensions.
Optical technology is limited by its use of cameras to record activity. Since most motion capture is used for the generation of 3D models, this means that multiple cameras are needed, usually 8. Since the cameras must surround the action, this also restricts optical motion capture to studios or specially constructed stages. This also means, with a couple exceptions, that this form of motion capture can't be used for real-time 3D since the images from multiple cameras has to be integrated to get the 3D image. And, while 2D motion capture from a single camera is adequate for most console gaming, it isn't sufficient for most VR applications.
Optical capture is generally adequate for animation and gait analysis, but tends to lack the precision necessary for more detailed medical and sports performance applications.
General Optical companies
Qualisys Motion Capture System
Active Marker technology companies
PTI realtime 3D motion capture
Passive Marker companies
Motion Analysis Corporation
Motion Lab Systems, Inc.
Inertial motion tracking uses what are essentially gyroscopes and reads the movement through inertial forces. Due to it's inherent poor resolution this technology is only appropriate for full body motion and not for digital gloves. Since it tracks by essentially dead-reckoning, it suffers eventual drift.
Body suits cost from $25,000 to $80,000 with the low-end product from Moven in the $3-5,000 range.
MECHANICAL and LASER OPTICAL
Mechanical motion capture suits and gloves are awkward, cumbersome and must usually be fitted to the wearer, but give the highest precision and are used in medical and sports applications which require millimeter levels of accuracy. They tend to range from $25,000 to $75,000.
Magnetic and magnetic resonance systems are very high cost systems They are custom built and primarily used in a laboratory setting. They are very precise through the use of magnetic triangulation.
RADIO FREQUENCY POSITIONING
Radio Frequency Position is a very inexpensive and simple way of tracking relative motion. RF Positioning works by tracking the phase change between 2 or more antennas.
Human Instrumentation for Virtual Environments
Maureen Furniss - A comprehensive overview of motion capture [link]