Refract Technologies’ easy-to-use full-body tracking system can be used for VR, gaming, and animation.
Who needs an old-fashioned controller when you have a perfectly good set of arms and legs? Singapore-based technology company Refract is working to bring motion capture to everyone, regardless of your experience with technology. And going by its successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, the market has signaled its enthusiasm.
AXIS (Active XR Interface System) is a full-body controller that uses a combination of wireless sensors attached to key points on the body to deliver high-quality motion capture. Whereas existing motion capture systems tend to include a complex setup process and expensive price tag, AXIS promises a more affordable solution, one that’s aimed at everyone from consumers to professionals, which is great news for all you amateur creators out there.
A key innovation in AXIS is its main hub, which uses an outward-facing depth-sensing camera to accurately translate its user’s position in real space to virtual space. The main hub also serves as a central channel to streamline communication between AXIS and external systems such as the user’s PC or VR system.
“Our goal is for AXIS to be the most accessible and versatile motion capture solution for its users,” said CEO Michael Chng while speaking to VRScout. “We stripped away everything we could that would hamper the user experience without compromising performance: external base stations, complicated technical setups, additional nodes, excess costs, and more. We want you to know you can let AXIS do the work.”
The AXIS system features three primary modes, each of which is designed for a unique set of use-cases: Standard, VR, and Creator. Standard mode is aimed at gamers looking to immerse themselves even further in their gaming experiences. To help showcase the capabilities of the AXIS system, Refract created its own game, Freestriker, which comes bundled free with the hardware. In this 1V1 fighting game, players use the AXIS full-body controller to battle each other in fast-paced martial arts fights. Standard mode uses nine sensors and one primary hub.
Other modes require fewer sensors. VR, for example, requires six nodes in addition to the main hub and a VR headset. The system is compatible with a variety of VR platforms, offering plug-and-play functionality with OpenVR, OpenXR, Oculus, and SteamVR. AXIS promises to breathe new life into popular VR games such as Blade & Sorcery and VRChat by allowing you full control over your in-game avatar, from your head to your feet.
The third mode, Creator, is for content creators such as animators and vtubers. This setup features the most nodes of all three options. Composed of 16 sensors, a primary hub, and two spare nodes, everyone from virtual personalities to filmmakers can use the system to capture natural human movement without breaking the bank. Despite the high number of sensors, Refract promises a consumer-friendly experience, no prior experience with motion capture technology required.
This is what sets AXIS apart from competing motion capture providers: its focus on professionals as well as your average day-to-day bedroom creator. Refract is composed of 40 employees and was founded by veterans of the gaming industry. Some of these employees previously worked at major companies like EA, Unity, and Ubisoft.
Most recently, the company teamed up with World Taekwondo to develop a one-of-a-kind virtual sports program. The team is even chatting with the International Olympic Committee in hopes of bringing the program to future Olympic events. Moving forward, the company plans on updating the AXIS system to expand its functionality even further, including facial and finger tracking.
“We intend to release, as a software update, the ability to use our main hub as its own external camera,” added COO Eugene Koh. “Ironic, because we removed external base stations. But this actually allows for additional AI-driven skeletal, facial or finger tracking in addition to AXIS body trackers. We also plan to build an Input Creator so even non-tech savvy users can easily map in-game controls to their chosen gestures using AXIS. This will allow us to make the system more inclusive and user-friendly.”
“Last but not least, we want to launch an AXIS App Center, where users can create, modify and share content with the wider community,” he continued. “Besides being a great platform to spot great developers, we know the community always comes up with some of the best ideas, and we fully intend to encourage and support them.”
AXIS is expected to retail at $799 for the Standard package (nine nodes plus one main hub) but backers can still grab a set on Kickstarter for $499 before the campaign ends. Act quickly and you can score an additional $50 off with the early bird special. This includes a free copy of Freestriker.
*This post was created in partnership with Refract Technologies.*
Feature Image Credit: Refract Technologies