Imaging wind and pianist hands

Sunday 11th March 2012
Top 3D lidar mapping drone fires laser from a mile away. Below: motion-captured piano hands for accurate analyses of intricate hand work

Research funded by the US Department of Energy sees engineers at the Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken NJ, USA) evaluate a new method for measuring offshore wind speeds with 3D lidar measurement. Academics at the University of Southampton (Southampton, UK) are using HAWK motion capture technology to examine the way pianists play the piano.

Before renewable utilities build offshore wind farms, engineers must scrutinise the wind field at a proposed target with pulses from a laser.

To overcome limitations in the current standard lidar systems that make measurements of vertical wind profiles, Dr. Herrington (right) from the Stevens Institute of Technology and colleagues are pioneering the use of scanning lidar that measures the wind field in 3D to 20 nautical miles offshore.

Mounted on buildings along the coast, the new lidar systems have an advantage over earlier lidar systems that had to be placed on buoys - which complicated measurements due to their motion - or on expensive offshore platforms.

Although the researchers' initial focus is on examining the potential of mid-Atlantic, especially New Jersey coastal wind sites, the lidar concept could be applied to capitalise on wind resources anywhere on Earth.


HAWK is a unique set of algorithms that can receive 3D coordinates of a number of fixed points on the wrist, hand fingers and thumb, from a motion capture system, and accurately measure, to less than a degree, all the dynamic joint information of the distal upper limb. It use a complex set of integrated algorithms to analyse composite movements integral to hand function, and is the first technique to accurately measure all these dynamic movements. 

Academics at the University of Southampton (Southampton, UK) are using  unique kinematic motion capture technology measurement system currently to examine the way pianists play the piano, and look at individual pianists' playing technique. 

Not only provide an insight into the posture of their hands on the keys and themovements they use, it may also be used to show how this translates into the unique sound they create. The project is being led by pianist and University of Southampton music professor (left) David Owen Norris and health sciences academic (right) Dr. Cheryl Metcalf.

Metcalf, who designed, developed, and validated the HAWK motion capture system, said that it comprised twelve Vicon infrared (IR) cameras and two Basler reference cameras that capture the movement of markers in 3-D space. After capturing the movement of the markers, software reconstructs movement of the pianists' hand movements.

Owen Norris and Metcalf hope the researchers can use the system to build an archive of pianists playing techniques, from music students to concert pianists, for biomechanical analysis. The research will also provide new information that could be useful in combating repetitive strain injury,  a common problem for pianists (and humbler keyboard operators.)

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