Motion in Place Platform

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Film and Music


Explorations of relationships between human movement and places, sites, or locations, are frequent components of research in archaeology and anthropology. However, as evermore of our culture is digitised, other disciplines including architecture, natural and built environment, performance, and others are re-discovering transdisciplinary notions of site and embodied experience of place. They are broadening their research from studies of the purely material cultures of roads, paths, and buildings in order to encompass the experiences and social relationships for which these were constructed. While developing their definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage, members of UNESCO looked at Rangihiroa Panoho's example of the marae, as simultaneously a building and a cultural meeting space for the Maori: a place in which certain kinds of behaviors and values are learned and transmitted. These sites are often documented by researchers using traditional research tools including cameras, GPS loggers, etc, but the behavior, the embodied experience of the place is lost. Architects long ago realised that it is not possible to get a proper understanding of a location by simply looking at drawings or images. We need to move around a building in order to understand it. Traditionally, architects would build 3D models to allow people to look at places from different viewpoints. Recently, many have turned to digital techniques to enable virtual fly-throughs, but have discovered that in order to get a truly embodied understanding of what they intend to build, they must 'walk the site'. Only by moving through a site, can they comprehend the scales, orientations, and relationships.

Many reconstructions of historic structures built specifically to accommodate human movement as an art form demonstrate their awareness of the value of human movement through their use of Second Life for visualisations, but fail to inject the gravity of embodied movement into such environments. Consequently, this need for new approaches and methods of framing problems in order to exploit and productively challenge data capture and visualization technologies is giving rise to a richly interdisciplinary research community linking architects, geographers and anthropologists, with the artists, archaeologists, dancer-choreographers, cultural theorists, and software and interface developers behind the current proposal.

Whereas numerous projects exist to allow researchers to walk through virtual or re-constructions of sites, the Motion in Place Plaftorm (MiPP) will provide new methods for researchers to visit existing sites and generate research data as they move through them. The platform will be a collection of hard and software tools enabling two forms of movement data to be captured on site:

- positional data from multiple people moving over large areas and large time scales (e.g., the movements of a team of archaeologists over an entire 6 month dig) following multiple people...

- high resolution, full-body data from 2 people in a 200 m2 area over shorter periods of time (e.g., the sequence of movements needed to bring water from a well to a hearth)

In addition, the project will develop a number of tools and test projects to demonstrate how this motion data can be shared and used by a variety of disciplines. Initial test projects will address the use of data captured on site in virtual restorations, relationships between the movements of an excavation team and the items they uncover, the use of augmented reality systems to view movement on the site itself, and manners in which the exploration of a site for the creation of performances and cultural artifacts can uncover here-to-fore hidden relationships between elements of a place.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit:

- The project will benefit anybody whose work explores relationships between human beings and the places and spaces they inhabit. A complete list cannot be compiled but would contain, among others, Anthropologists, Archeologists, Architects, Ethnographers, Geographers and Surveyors, Social and Cultural Scientists, Sports Scientists, Heritage Scientists, Computer Scientists, Dancers, Actors, Sculptors, Photographers, Film Makers and Designers

- The project develops and gives concrete form to unprecedented possibilities for outdoor human motion tracking in a wide range of potentially captive public settings, including natural and historic heritage sites, locations of architectural and urban interest, theme parks seeking to tailor individual visitor experience and/ or monitor footfall, etc.

- The project lends itself to novel kinds of tracking of outdoor sports activities, for which previously available studio-bound motion capture systems have proved over cumbersome and constraining. We anticipate that our outputs will be of considerable interest in the pre-Olympic context, which we will specifically address with our dissemination plans.

- The possibilities of harvesting human motion data as a basis for creative, choreographic interpretation mean high potential impact for the performing arts. Again, this sector will be targeted by our dissemination activities, which will build on the project's integration of a professional dance group.

- The project builds on Sussex-based Technology Strategy Board funded research in collaboration with Animazoo, a company renowned for its design of pioneering motion capture technology. MiPP thus represents critical interest for the motion capture and related user sectors.

How will they benefit:

The greatest impact possible in terms of societal impact from the MiPP project would be to initiate a rethinking of our means of conducting research and our relationships to our environments. Rather than focusing solely on documentation of material objects in our environments, the project aims to demonstrate that valuable research data can be gathered from moving through the environment. The project will demonstrate UK economic impact primarily through increased sales of Animazoo (Brighton-based) motion capture equipment.

Motion capture and related technologies have seen an explosion of interest and usage over the past three years. However, most researchers don't realise the usefulness of motion capture tools outside of the creative industries. The Motion in Place Platform project is structured to engage as many people as possible, both inside and outside academia, in order to explain this technology and how data generated by it can be applied to their field.

What will be done to ensure they benefit:

The project is structured as follows in order to engage as many beneficiaries as possible:

- Launch the project with a 2-day scoping workshop in Sussex as detailed in the project objectives. The investigators have developed an extensive network of partners working with movement, space and motion capture technologies. A diverse group of these partners will be invited to an initial scoping workshop introducing the tools and discussing their possible uses. These participants will be invited to join an advisory team and keep in touch with the project team via web forums.

- The MiPP team will create 4 sample projects to illustrate how the data generated by the systems can be used for research in a variety of different fields. These sample projects will detailed in a printed publication and placed on the project website.

- The DEDEFI phase of the project will culminate with a one-day open workshop inviting researchers and non-academics to view the systems and sample projects as well as engaging in public discussion of how these tools may be useful for their d
Title Moments in Place 
Description Moments in Place is a series of site-specific virtual performances, created for the Brighton Digital Festival, inviting visitors to consider movement qualities of different locations in the city of Brighton as well as the range of artworks in Brighton's streets. Each of the performances were recorded on site using portable motion capture systems. When phones or tablets are pointed at select urban artworks, a performance is rendered live in 3D allowing the audience to walk around and explore the relationship between the performance and location. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Opened the 2013 Brighton Digital Festival. Led to funding of a collaborative project between Welsh National Opera and BBC/Arts council "The Space" programme. Led to presentations at the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) in Istanbul (2011), Dubai (2014) and Abu Dhabi (2014). 
Description This project explored developments motion capture technologies for the understanding of relationship between humans and their environments. In this context, environments can refer to archaeological sites or modern habitats. The research team determined the viability of measuring human activity and behaviour outdoors using current inertial motion capture technologies and conducted a number of tests to see how movement captured on-site differed from movement captured in a studio. The research team then developed a number of examples for use of this motion data in heritage and cultural settings.

The findings have been presented at a number of Archaeology, Digital Arts, and Digital Performance conferences and festivals.
Exploitation Route The findings are leading to a rethinking of human movement in virtual heritage reconstructions, video games, and site-specific performances.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL Http://
Description Findings from the project have led to a re-thinking of movement and mobilities in virtual heritage (re)construction as well as questioning the nature of site-specific and virtual performance.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Title Moments in Place App 
Description An augmented reality performance viewer released on both Apple's iTunes App store and Google's Play store. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Opened the 2013 Brighton Digital Festival. Led to successful commission between Welsh National Opera and Arts Council/BBC through the "The Space" programme.