Two dachshund puppies in a basket

Motion capture digitises dogs without need for suits

Image credit: Barbara Helgason | Dreamstime

Researchers have developed motion capture technology that enables users to digitise a dog without a motion capture suit and using only one camera.

Computer scientists from CAMERA, a motion capture research centre at the University of Bath, digitised the movement of 14 different breeds of dog, from lanky lurchers to squat pugs, which were residents of the local Bath Cats’ and Dogs’ Home (BCDH).

Wearing special dog motion capture suits with markers, the dogs were filmed under the supervision of their BCDH handlers doing a range of movements as part of their enrichment activities.

The researchers then used the data from the suits to create a computer model that can accurately predict and replicate the poses of dogs when they’re filmed without wearing motion capture suits. 

This model allows 3D digital information for new dogs – their shape and movement – to be captured without markers and expensive equipment, but instead using a single RGBD camera, the researchers said. 

RGBD cameras were used as they also record the distance from the camera for each pixel. This differs from normal digital cameras where they only record the red, green and blue (RGB) colour in each pixel in the image. 

“This is the first time RGBD images have been used to track the motion of dogs using a single camera, which is much more affordable than traditional motion capture systems that require multiple cameras,” said PhD researcher Sinéad Kearney. 

The research enables you to digitise a dog without an expensive studio motion capture camera set up

The researchers developed their new motion capture tech by first training it on a range of dogs wearing motion capture suits

Image credit: University of Bath

The researchers said the new software could be used for a wide range of purposes. This includes helping vets diagnose lameness their canine patients. “This technology allows us to study the movement of animals, which is useful for applications such as detecting lameness in a dog and measuring its recovery over time,” Kearney explained.

The researchers said the software could also be used in entertainment applications. “Our research can help produce more authentic movement of virtual animals in films and video games, Kearney added. “Dog owners could also use it to make a 3D digital representation of their pet on their computer, which is a lot of fun!”

Motion capture technology is already widely used in the entertainment industry. Here, actors wear a suit dotted with white markers which are then precisely tracked in 3D space by multiple cameras taking images from different angles. Movement data can then be transferred onto a digital character for use in films or computer games.

Similar technology is also used by biomechanics experts to track the movement of elite athletes during training or to monitor patients’ rehabilitation from injuries. However, these technologies – particularly when applying them to animals – require expensive equipment and dozens of markers to be attached.

The team at CAMERA have also started testing their method on computer-generated images of other four-legged animals including horses, cats, lions and gorillas. They added there are some promising results from these tests.

In the future, they also aim to extend their animal dataset to make the results more accurate; they will also be making the dataset available for non-commercial use by others.

“While there is a great deal of research on automatic analysis of human motion without markers, the animal kingdom is often overlooked,” said Professor Darren Cosker, director of CAMERA. 

“Our research is a step towards building accurate 3D models of animal motion along with technologies that allow us to very easily measure their movement. This has many exciting applications across a range of areas – from veterinary science to video games.”

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