Jonathan Matthis, of the Biology Dept. at Northeastern University, has launched the open source FreeMoCap Project. ‘Mo-cap’ records human body movement in space, in a way that can then be pinned to 3D digital skeletons and ‘played back’. Very useful for animators and researchers alike.

What makes this project different? It’s a “low-cost, research-quality markerless” mo-cap system, that can run from video recorded by… two £1,000 iPhones and an £800 graphics card? Nope, that’s what I was expecting. But in this case you just need two standard USB webcams.

The aim is have… “a 14-year-old, with no technical training and no outside assistance, recreate a research-grade motion capture system for less than $100”. The early results have had animation professionals making very positive noises.

This worthy project then feeds its data to the free open source Blender 3D software. Great. The only problem appears to be that you need an NVIDIA graphics card in your PC, to process the video in a way that can get the skeleton data out of it. Where you’ll find a useful NVIDIA graphics card for less than $100 I don’t know, but I’m guessing the system may eventually be able to run on the sort of ancient graphics cards that get eBay’d for $20.

Anyway, it seems to me that this is an open project that could use some donations and volunteer coders for its early stages.