Virtual Character Animation Based on Affordable Motion Capture and Reconfigurable Tangible Interfaces

IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2018 May;24(5):1742-1755. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2017.2690433. Epub 2017 Apr 3.


Software for computer animation is generally characterized by a steep learning curve, due to the entanglement of both sophisticated techniques and interaction methods required to control 3D geometries. This paper proposes a tool designed to support computer animation production processes by leveraging the affordances offered by articulated tangible user interfaces and motion capture retargeting solutions. To this aim, orientations of an instrumented prop are recorded together with animator's motion in the 3D space and used to quickly pose characters in the virtual environment. High-level functionalities of the animation software are made accessible via a speech interface, thus letting the user control the animation pipeline via voice commands while focusing on his or her hands and body motion. The proposed solution exploits both off-the-shelf hardware components (like the Lego Mindstorms EV3 bricks and the Microsoft Kinect, used for building the tangible device and tracking animator's skeleton) and free open-source software (like the Blender animation tool), thus representing an interesting solution also for beginners approaching the world of digital animation for the first time. Experimental results in different usage scenarios show the benefits offered by the designed interaction strategy with respect to a mouse & keyboard-based interface both for expert and non-expert users.