eTech & Art & More

Tracking: Beyond 15 Minutes of Thought

By Jennifer Recknagel

Sunday at SIGGRAPH saw the debut of the courses program. These popular half and full day sessions are designed to draw out the techie in all of us by offering expert advice on a variety of complex programming issues. The 'Tracking: Beyond 15 Minutes of Thought' course put together by Gary Bishop and Greg Welch of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was billed as a chance to "peek under the hood" of several motion capture systems. The primary aim of the course was to dispel many of the misconceptions there are about the supposed simplicity of tracking human movement through virtual reality environments. The panel took us through the mathematical and technical aspects of inertial, acoustic, magnetic, mechanical, and optical tracking technologies, explaining in detail the advantages and faults of each of these approaches.

Although the presenters where well researched in their field, it suffered from information overload. Though some of the math was probably quite fascinating to those immersed in the technology, they at times provided technical details which where far too complex for the beginner rating the course was given. Regardless, the panelists managed to articulated the main issues facing the field, namely how to control position and orientation uncertainty.

Determining where a person is located in a space is quite difficult. Most people consider it for about 15 minutes and feel as though they could configure a system which would solve all your problems. As the panelists explained, this naive outlook on the technology fails to consider the quality of information coming from the sensors. Spatial sensitivity and noise are the main problems, as they corrupt the signal making it very difficult to get accurate real time readings. The course went on to discuss the technical reasons for why this occurs, but failed to provide any solutions. Nonetheless it seemed as though some interesting technology could be just around the corner if only a few snags could be worked out.

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This page is maintained by YON - Jan C. Hardenbergh All photos you see in the 2001 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY