The joint project of Xsens and the Rothschild Fund was completed using an advanced prototype system developed by Xsens to enable 3D motion capture of equine locomotion in real-world conditions. The system employs inertial sensors located on the horse's body and GPS to track
full-body motion in any environment, indoors and outdoors, allowing the horse's innate, voluntary movements to be
recorded and viewed on a standard PC in real-time.
Xsens' R&D Team accepted the challenge of developing the prototype, an inertial motion capture system for horses, as an inspiring and out-of-the box project. The aim was to push the boundaries of its MVN inertial motion capture technology, requiring integration with GPS position and velocity tracking, a more complex biomechanical model, and higher motion dynamics.
"We loved the challenge of pushing our technology beyond the state-of-art and to be part of the great ambition of the Rothschild Fund. They provided the equine biomechanical models, equine knowledge, and the horses, so we could focus on the challenge in the sensor fusion," Henk Luinge (PhD), research manager at Xsens, explains.
Members of Xsens' R&D Team and the Rothschild Fund performed the world's-first 3D inertial motion capture of a horse's gallop in Woodside, Calif. The location is less than 15 kilometers from the site of Leland Stanford's Palo Alto racetrack where the famous photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, recorded the world's-first 2D photographic motion capture of a horse's trot 130 years ago.
"Study of equine locomotion for the past century has remained predominantly laboratory experimentation, in which horses are confined in a controlled environment with stationary cameras," explains Chris Hart (PhD), a research associate of the Rothschild Fund. "Our goal was to capture the horse's motions, without capturing the horse. Remarkably, Xsens, the one company capable of the technical innovation, was also the one company that shared our interest in free-moving horses."
The "MVN Equine" prototype will be used by the Rothschild Fund to further current understanding of horses and was recently presented to peers at the International Society of Biomechanics Equine SIG in Brussels, July 2011. The technology could also potentially be used to animate equine computer characters for visual effects in a large film production without the need to bring horses into a motion-capture studio.