Motion measurement is going mainstream

Nov 26, 2019

Nick Bolton, CEO, discusses motion measurement - how it has evolved and looking to the future

We are in the business of measurement and have seen some amazing developments in the last 35 years. We have been saying for some time now, the measurement of movement specifically, is entering the mainstream - it’s breaking into every aspect of our lives - and, as we approach the end of another busy year, we can reflect on how motion measurement has evolved and look to the future.

Born in medical research
From our first sale in Japan in 1985, we are proud to have been part of a team working on breakthroughs in clinical analysis.

Initially used in a medical research setting, motion capture technology became an essential clinical tool. It was used widely within hospitals to measure and analyse a person’s movement, helping doctors diagnose conditions, aid clinical decisions - pre and post-surgery, and recommend therapeutic strategies.

Out of hospital, into Hollywood and beyond
You might not remember Andre Agassi’s Nike commercial but that was us in 1997 shining a spotlight on virtual video gaming - technology before its time.

As the technology became more powerful and easier to use, interest in motion capture grew out of a medical setting and into the Hollywood studio. We are lucky enough to have been involved in some of the most iconic films of their time, showcased in Titanic, Polar Express and Star Wars. And not forgetting some triple-A gaming hits such as Call of Duty and FIFA Soccer. Our motion tracking even won a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award for revolutionising visual effects, used in films such as the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings.

The number of measurement applications opened up as the technology became increasingly flexible. Branching out to the engineering market, our measurement systems have been used widely - in drone tracking, testing robot behaviours at Dyson and tracking spacesuits at NASA.

Our solutions are now used extensively in the entertainment, engineering and life sciences industries to research and analyse movement. And the range of applications continues to evolve. What we are seeing now is movement tracking being applied to a broader range of markets than ever before, largely driven by the arrival of the Augmented Age. Unquestionably, motion measurement is breaking into every aspect of life.

Out of Hollywood and into our phones
With the coming of this Augmented Age, we are seeing a third wave in motion measurement. In this new era measurement technology is now moving into our pockets and deep into our lives - our smartphones can track head movement and our watches can measure body movement.

We’ve seen the rise of the consumer fitness tracker to monitor calories burned, distance travelled, the number of steps taken, and sleep patterns - all through motion measurement. Health and fitness tracking is now simply part of daily life with Garmin, Fitbit and Apple watches widely used along with other smart apps and wearables to help us reach our goals.

Indeed, motion measurement is starting to redefine the way we use our phones. A recent example is Google’s Project Soli which can be found embedded in their new Pixel 4 phone. This uses micro-radar to track gestures, such as a rubbing your thumb and forefinger together next to the phone to turn the volume up - all without touching it.

Measurement applications continue to grow. As we embrace the Augmented Age, these digital interfaces, and increasingly, machines need to understand movement as well as we do. New immersive, free-to-roam VR experiences are being created that are increasingly convincing. Measurement used in the rehab of injured elite athletes continues to grow, helping them perform better at the very highest level.

And it’s only just begun….
This new wave of motion measurement has a long way yet to run - improving everyday outcomes for everyone. Everyday monitoring is evolving to track progress be that post injury, everyday care of our aging population or everyday insights into sports performance.

Immersive Virtual Reality environments will suspend disbelief by becoming increasingly realistic and new engineering solutions will be enhanced using measurement to design better drones, robots, and autonomous vehicles. This generation of motion measurement is going to help redefine every aspect of our everyday lives.

Since 1984, we have come a long way, and as we see this third wave develop, I’m as excited today as ever to be part of this innovative industry and seeing motion measurement going from the mainstream to the masses. Measurement matters.