Xsens: An Innovator in Inertial Motion Capture Technology

December 7, 2014 11:26 pm

Tags: 3D, Animation, Film, Fimmaking, Motion Capture


“Xsens is the leading innovator in 3D motion tracking technology and products. Its sensor fusion technologies enable a seamless interaction between the physical and the digital world in consumer electronics devices and professional applications such as 3D character animation, motion analysis, and industrial control & stabilization.”


Since its founding in 2000, Fairchild Conductor’s Xsens has become a leader in 3D Motion Tracking technology, both in professional 3D character animation and in technologies that require sophisticated analysis of motion. Xsens has provided the technology behind motion capture for major hollywood films, video games, 3D animated films, the Winter Olympics, television commercials and much more.

Recently, the company has released a new, more affordable version of their wearable inertial motion capture systems and software. I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak at the new Xsens technology at SIGGRAPH 2014 where I met with Sebastien Terra who is the Entertainment Sales Manager for Xsens. Here are some of the details of that meeting and my subsequent research on Xsens.




“The new Xsens MVN engine delivers: cleaner data, no drift during tracking, smaller sensors, height tracking, and more. All aspects that held our last MVN system back from truly breaking through its previs capabilities to handle fullon production work.”

Xsens New “Production Ready” lineup

With their newest line of Xsens software and hardware, the company has done something that you don’t often see in the computer graphics industry: improve the quality, but lower the price. In an attempt to appeal to artists and small crews that need quality motion capture, but at a reasonable price, Xsens has dropped the price of their products nearly 75%.

The two main product lines for Xsens are: the MVN Link system (a mocap suit with on­body wired tracker) and MVN Awinda (a strap­based, wireless mocap system). In addition to the hardware, Xsens makes available two levels of software applications: MVN Studio or MVN Studio Pro.




Why Xsens Inertial Motion Capture is Superior

Xsens uses a non­optical method of motion capture/analysis. This method is called “Inertial” motion capture and it uses miniature inertial sensors to transmit motion information wirelessly to a recording computer. The motion data is analysed using biomechanical models and special software to achieve an extremely high level of fidelity to the original physical action.

Usually, inertial motion capture methods are easier to set up, can be taken practically anywhere and provides cleaner data so there is less “clean up” after the motion has been captured. These advantages make Xsens MVN easier to use and does not require specialists to operate the hardware/software.

Xsens Re­Imagines Motion Capture

With cheaper hardware/software, smaller tracking devices and a big upgrade in the quality of recorded data, Xsens is poised to break through into a much broader market. A market composed of smaller teams and individuals either in entertainment, professional animation or medical/sports motion analysis. In essence, Xsens is re­imagining the process of motion capture making it cheaper, more responsive and mobile. No longer confined to a large studio, you can take Xsens to any location you like and capture motion effectively.

Xsens technology works hand­in­hand with Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, and MotionBuilder and Side Effects Software Houdini, Cinema 4D, Unity3D and others.




Final Thoughts

I’m very impressed with Xsens, both the company and their technology. While optical tracking has become quite popular because of its relatively low price, inertial tracking, the kind that Xsens brings to the table, is going to continue to come down in price and, I believe, will eventually become the motion capture technology of choice for discerning artists. And Xsens is the company that is pushing the boundaries both in price and technological innovation.

For more information about Xsens and their new product line-up, download their brochure and visit their main website.



Pricing and Availability

Users can start working with Xsens MVN at a starting price of $12,000. The new Xsens MVN product line is now currently available for purchase primarily through their online shop.


My thanks to Sebastien for an excellent presentation and to Stephen Hoshaw for setting it up and suggesting this article. I hope to write more about Xsens as the company continues to grow and innovate.

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.




December 7, 2014

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