Motion sensors near a walkway in the Moore building create a walking "companion."

At a demonstration Monday in the Moore Building, a student volunteer attached sensory markers to her legs, and a crowd watched as her cartwheels were imitated on a screen by an animated pair of legs.

The demonstration, held for graduate students by The Susquehanna International Group Center for Graphics, showed off the center's new motion-capture studio, the largest academic motion-capture studio in the region, and part of renovations completed in January.

Other changes to the center - originally the Human Modeling and Simulation Lab - include a new computer graphics center and gallery.

These additions came as a result of a donation from SIG, which was the largest corporate gift ever made to Penn.

The simulations lab is currently occupied by SIG Center associate director Jan Allbeck, Ph.D. students and visiting researchers engaged in computer graphics projects.

One of the most applauded additions to the lab is a Virtual Companion Wall. Motion sensors are placed at each end of a corridor. As people walk by, a computer inside the SIG Center senses the motion and triggers a sequence of light patterns that creates a virtual friend that independently moves along the corridor.

"These companions come in all shapes and sizes and are often toting bags or backpacks," Allbeck said.

According to SIG Center Director and Computer and Information Science professor Norman Badler, "The wall is decorative and amusing, and because of the computer in the SIG Center, it may eventually be used for other graphic, artistic or information digital signage purposes."

Another new addition is the H. Stone Animation Studio, which has a 12-camera Vicon motion-capture system - an industry standard for animation and special effects.

The system will be used for projects such as 3-D motion picture special effects, computer graphics and animation, simulation and modeling of large-scale human crowds and research into the connections between human movement, language and communication, Engineering Ph.D. student Joe Kider said.

"Motion capture is used in many Hollywood blockbuster films such as The Matrix and Lord of the Rings," Kider said. "Most recently, it has been used in the new movie The Watchmen for many of Dr. Manhattan's scenes."

In addition, "physical simulation is great for creating "virtual stunt people" in movies, who can do things that no real person would want to perform," Badler said. "Almost all human-like game character animations use motion capture so that the player sees natural-looking motions."

According to second-year Engineering graduate student Adrian Roe, the lab "has lots of potential for use in graphics."

The center will have a grand opening in the next few weeks which will be open to all members of the Penn community.

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