MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Scotty Hardwig has brought a technology most people see only in movies or video games to the Mahaney Center for the Arts. This fall, Hardwig opened, and now directs, the new Motion Capture Lab (MoCap), which includes a full bodysuit with gyroscopic sensors and a dedicated computer with motion capture and animation software.

“We see real potential for these new digital tools to provide an integration point among the arts, sciences, humanities and athletics through the digital study of human motion,” said Hardwig.

In the studio, motion capture begins with the state-of-the-art wireless lycra bodysuit, whose sensors send data to the computer. The sensors position each joint in the body in relationship to earth’s gravity, allowing for seamless real-time tracking of each body part in three-dimensional space. The resulting image on the computer screen is an animated human character–an avatar–of the person wearing the suit.

Hardwig believes there are limitless teaching and learning applications for the technology. In dance, for example, the data collected from the sensors could help a dancer learn more about the passage of weight between joints. It could also provide lessons in technical principles for a dancer as they transition their weight, he says.

An important goal of the lab, notes Hardwig, is to expand the uses of motion capture beyond its traditional high-tech uses for film and gaming and into the liberal arts realm. He believes it could be a valuable tool for interdisciplinary research between arts and sciences in wide-ranging fields, such as sports medicine, biology, and other hard sciences. In the social sciences, he envisions sociology/anthropology students and researchers studying human motion and body socialization or psychology students exploring motion, perception, and space.

“It’s also our goal for this lab space to be a connective zone between different disciplines and practices on campus,” says Hardwig, “and in the Middlebury community through performances, research projects, or experiments that involve embodied experience and digital tracking.”

The new MoCap lab will host an open house and lecture demonstration on Friday, October 7, from 10-11 a.m. at the Mahaney Center for the Arts Dance Theatre. More information about the MoCap lab is available online.

About the Fund for Innovation

The Ron and Jessica Liebowitz Fund for Innovation (FFI) was established in honor of Middlebury’s 16th president and his wife in March 2015 by a group of donors who believe that a distinctive culture of creative thinking is essential to the Middlebury community.

To promote that culture, the FFI seeks proposals for experimental ideas and projects that have the potential to create lasting, positive change for the Middlebury community. Through the process of creating, reviewing, and developing the ideas submitted, the FFI hopes to expand the collective understanding of what it means to be innovative in an academic setting.

Reporting by Stephen Diehl