By Chris Seekell
We have just been informed by reliable sources attached to the Star Wars Episode VII project, that one move being made to make the film more realistic is the incorporation of full-size animatronic aliens and possibly droids as well. These robots will be controlled via human motion capture, which is in line with the fact that motion capture expert Andy Serkis has been confirmed as an actor for the film and has mentioned that he was doing motion capture.
"The Imaginarium is now involved in all of the performance capture on the Star Wars projects," Serkis explained, "and I’m playing a character in that. It’s extraordinary."
After doing some digging, we have found a Disney research project from a few years ago that describes the motion capture controlled robots. The above photo is from this project. The synopsis reads:
Motion capture is a good source of data for programming humanoid robots because it contains the natural styles and synergies of human behaviors. However, it is difficult to directly use captured motion data because the kinematics and dynamics of humanoid robots differ significantly from those of humans. In our previous work, we developed a controller that allows a robot to maintain balance while tracking a given reference motion that does not include contact state changes. The controller consists of a balance controller based on a simplified robot model and a tracking controller that performs local joint feedback and an optimization process to obtain the joint torques to simultaneously realize balancing and tracking. In this paper, we improve the controller to address the issues related to root position/orientation estimation, model uncertainties, and the difference between expected and actual contact forces. We implement the controller on a full-body, force-controlled humanoid robot. Experimental results demonstrate that the controller can successfully make the robot track captured human motion sequences
Our sources from the project also have suggested that actress Lupita Nyong'o will be doing motion capture work for the film. We will let you know if we find any more information corroborating that report. Nyong'o recently posted an instagram photo where she posed with a Han Solo action figure and wore an Episode VII hat.
What do you think? Is moving away from CGI characters a good decision by Lucasfilm? Sound off in the comments!
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