Noitom International's Roch Nakajima has told us the company's story, explained how their Mocap.Market library works, and discussed the production process behind their mocap movements.
My name is Roch Nakajima, and I currently serve as the president of Noitom International Inc. My journey with Noitom began in 2012, when they hired my advertising agency to manage their Kickstarter campaign. The campaign was a tremendous success, and our teams quickly began collaborating. A few years later, Noitom established Noitom International to oversee business operations in the US, Europe, and Asia. At this juncture, they invited me to join the company and take the lead.
At Noitom, one of our fundamental values is "MOCAP FOR ALL". From the outset, with the launch of our Kickstarter campaign, our mission was to democratize a technology that had long been inaccessible to most creators. In a groundbreaking move, we reduced the cost of this technology from hundreds of thousands of dollars to just $999. In 2012, when our campaign was launched, two other projects were also initiated on Kickstarter. Among the three, we were not only the only one to deliver a product, but also the only one still thriving a decade later.
We've weathered various trends, from VR and Covid to the Metaverse, and have only grown stronger by offering a fantastic product at an affordable price without hidden fees. Additionally, we've consistently sought partnerships with software developers in fields like 3D and ergonomics, aiming to streamline their processes and foster growth.
Today, we are integrated in over a hundred applications, encompassing major game engines as well as up-and-coming 3D animation startups. Our strength lies in our unwavering commitment to adapt and support our customers and partners, ensuring that this technology remains as accessible as possible.
The Mocap.Market Project
The concept behind Mocap.Market was born from our dedication to "MOCAP FOR ALL". While several companies had already created online mocap libraries, we noticed a gap in terms of inclusivity and catering to specific communities. We asked ourselves, "How can mocap be beneficial to humanity?" Recognizing the ambitious nature of this goal, we started small by identifying areas where mocap could be valuable and quickly zeroed in on Sign Language. Our initial aim was to capture 500 words and phrases in American Sign Language and make them freely available. Within a week, we had our first 500 signs.
We then expanded our library, realizing that some individuals might not be able to afford our suits but could still benefit from the mocap data for their projects. As a result, we added more files. Currently, we are preparing to capture Mexican Sign Language and hope to work on Japanese Sign Language later this year. Our goal is for this library to continue growing as a free resource for creators.
We're also exploring the addition of facial mocap, having learned the significance of facial expressions in sign language. This will be a part of our upcoming project.
Utilizing the library is quite straightforward. Simply visit mocap.market and explore or search for various motions. To download a desired motion, click on it. Keep in mind that you'll need to sign up and consent to the specified Creative Commons license for data usage. Besides our ASL collection, we offer an extensive assortment of movements, ranging from casual strolls to vaulting, spell-casting to zombie-like actions, and even twerking to the YMCA dance. All these resources are available for free.
Preparing Different Movements for the Platform
We started with an extensive list of signs and movements in a spreadsheet. For the sign language segment, we collaborated with the Southern California Association for the Deaf and, along with one of their members and an interpreter, had Zione Hong wear our Perception Neuron Studio suit to capture each sign using our Axis Studio software. For the other movements, we worked with local LA actors and stunt performers following the same process. All of this was executed at Noitom's LA Studio by our California team.
From the beginning, we chose not to manipulate or clean up the files, as we wanted to showcase the raw capabilities of our system. All available files are unaltered. Regarding rigging, our mocap suits come with Axis Studio, our motion capture and recording software. The files were exported as FBX and posted on the site for anyone to use. We used our "Axis Studio Skeleton" for rigging, which has a hierarchy similar to Mixamo's. This means that recordings made with our skeleton are compatible with characters rigged using Mixamo.
We are in the process of adding our own MBX format files to the site, so users will be able to open them using our free Axis Studio Lite software and export them in their desired format. This update should be available by the end of April 2023.
Our objective is to motion capture as many sign languages as possible, with Mexican and Japanese sign languages being next on our list. We also aim to incorporate facial expressions, understanding their importance in signing. Additionally, we are collaborating with partners who wish to integrate this library into their applications at no cost. We are receptive to new ideas and encourage anyone with suggestions to reach out to us.