I am no stranger to 3D modeling and motion capture. Thanks to a good friend, I have learned all about it. In fact, he just set up a motion capture studio less than two weeks ago.
I saw Motion capture on games, but I never saw it in a different type of production. That is what Ford is doing1 – They are using the Virtual Manufacturing division to test the aesthetics and ergonomics of a car.
They can even do it without the car being present.
Allison Stephens guides us through the program known as Santos (Jack and Jill). The computer model is used figure out not only if the oil cap is reachable in the car, but how it affects the person who is adjusting it.
Santos can help engineers understand the stress of reaching for the oil cap, or maybe something as simple in Getting into and out of the car. These are the same tests the Department of Defense is conducting on military vehicles.
Motion capture runs on special cameras in what is dubbed as the “Passive Optical Capture System”. The cameras are looking for reflective light – which are the little balls on the suit of the participant. It’s the same reflective material you would see on a worker’s or jogger’s vest.
The computer marks each ball to place the Virtual Jack (or Jill) in perspective. For instance, you put a reflective ball on the wrist, then tell the computer that reflective ball is the wrist. That way, if Jack (or Jill) moves, the computer will know where the wrist is in it’s movement.
We got to try this process by wearing a visor and gloves. We could then see where our hands were going. We could virtually touch the engine, oil cap, certain hoses, or whatever we need to test. For tactile feel, the team attached a oil cap and a hose to the car.
The movement really impressed me. If I needed to look underneath the car, I kneeled down to do it. the mock-up frame was used as a simple guide around the car.
The process overall was amazing. To learn the ergonomics when you, say, grab the oil cap, is fascinating. Ford can then build a better car from this data.
Next up – We head to the Programmable Vehicle Model