Tangible and Modular Input Device for Character Articulation

Emerging Technologies at ACM SIGGRAPH 2014, UIST 2014 Demo session
Alec Jacobson, Daniele Panozzo, Oliver Glauser, Cédric Pradalier, Otmar Hilliges, Olga Sorkine-Hornung

Input device controlling an elephant

Assembled from modular, interchangeable, and hot-pluggable parts (left), our novel device forms a skeletal tree matching the Elephant. As the user manipulates each joint of the device, measured bone rotations animate a skeletal rig, and the Elephant comes to life!


Articulation of 3D characters requires control over many degrees of freedom: a difficult task with standard 2D interfaces. We present a tangible input device composed of interchangeable, hot-pluggable parts. Embedded sensors measure the device’s pose at rates suitable for real-time editing and animation. Splitter parts allow branching to accommodate any skeletal tree. During assembly, the device recognizes topological changes as individual parts or pre-assembled subtrees are plugged and unplugged. A novel semi-automatic registration approach helps the user quickly map the device’s degrees of freedom to a virtual skeleton inside the character. User studies report favorable comparisons to mouse and keyboard interfaces. Our device provides input for character rigging and automatic weight computation, direct skeletal deformation, interaction with physical simulations, and handle-based variational geometric modeling.


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accompanying video

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We are indebted to Ladislav Kavan for illuminating discussions. Gilles Caprari (gctronic.com) provides electronic and engineering support. We thank Marco Attene for making MeshFix open source and Olga Diamanti, Romain Prévost, Christian Schüller, Kenshi Takayama, Emily Whiting for proofreading. This work is supported by the ERC grant iModel (StG-2012-306877), by an SNF award 200021_137879 and the Intel Doctoral Fellowship.