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maggio 11, 2016 - European Space Agency

Every move you make

Comunicato Stampa disponibile solo in lingua originale. 

From video games to blockbuster movies to the International Space Station, the movement-tracking technology of Dutch company Xsens Technologies is playing an important role. Through a linkup with ESMOD Berlin, explains senior marketing managerRemco Sikkema, they will also be playing a part in Couture in Orbit.

Our company was founded in 2000 by two graduates of Twente University here in the Netherlands, with the idea of putting sensors on the shoes of runners, to measure their pace and speed and share it with other runners across the globe. 

This probably sounds familiar today, in 2016 there are plenty of apps for that, but back at that point the time wasn’t right. So then the question became: what else are we going to do with this technology?

Today, Xsens has three main market areas. The first is robotics and other industrial systems – tracking the movement of robots, unmanned vehicles such as drones or other moving machines. The second is motion capture for entertainment, gaming, film or live entertainment.

The third is human motion measurement on the university side of things – for basic research into things like ergonomics, for looking into enhancing sports performance – such as changing posture to improve skating performance.

In 2006 we had the thought that if we combined sensors and then added a virtual biomechanical model, you can effectively build a 3D version of yourself, so this is what we added to the product line, a way to capture overall body movement.

Each sensor is basically the same, fusing gyroscopes to measure the turns being made, a magnetometer to identify changes in heading and an accelerometer to record the speed. Combining these three datastreams is really our core business, though we can always add others such as a barometer for height or GPS for location. Based around ‘microelectromechanical systems’ (or MEMS, for short), the sensors are small and getting smaller all the time. They started out about the size of a matchbox, and are already down to quarter of that size. 

The ESMOD Berlin students we are working with are using our MVN Biomech product, which is a full body suit incorporating 17 separate sensors, similar to a skater’s suit. It’s pretty comfortable, but a tight fit, because the sensors have to stay at the same point in order to capture useful motion data.

The product can be used to modify the garment a model is wearing when seen on TV, to try out different clothing on your body, or even to switch models as they move across the catwalk.

And in future the same technology could be used to give a signal if the wearer is running too fast, showing any signs of illness or sitting at work in the wrong way that might lead to problems.

We’re quite future-oriented, and our products have already been in space. NASA is using sensors embedded in a ‘force shoe’ to help measure the forces exerted as astronauts exercise in space, because in weightlessness these differ from the forces in play down on Earth.


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