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Sports Technology

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The potential of the Microsoft Kinect in sports
analysis and biomechanics
Simon Choppin & Jonathan Wheat
To cite this article: Simon Choppin & Jonathan Wheat (2013) The potential of the
Microsoft Kinect in sports analysis and biomechanics, Sports Technology, 6:2, 78-85, DOI:
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Published online: 23 Aug 2013.

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The disparities and deformation are measured and translated into depth information. E-mail: s. although vertical position (Y) was subject to a large systematic bias of 405 mm. The method is thought to be related to structured light techniques (Scharstein & Szeliski. the Kinect is controlled and accessed through a computer and driver software. enhanced learning and artistic expression.2013. Correspondence: S. respectively.598 in abduction and 21. UK (Received 16 November 2012. http://dx.008 in flexion. Although segment tracking accuracy is low. COM position and principal moments of inertia were 2 1. scanning. The majority of software applications to date (written for the PC) have been custom written for a specific application and are usually made freely available. Sheffield. the Kinect could potentially be used in coaching and education for all three application areas in this study. although specific details of the methods have not been published. RMSEs in X. Segment angles were compared. The technology achieves this through the use of two cameras (colour and monochrome) and an infra-red (IR) projector. Within days of its release. A mannequin was scanned with the Kinect and a laser scanner. The commercial software gave the highest accuracy. Separate shoulder abduction (2 1008 to 508) and flexion motions (08– 1008) were recorded by the Kinect (using free and commercial software) and a Motion Analysis Corporation (MAC) system. Sheffield. researchers and hackers were using the Kinect for a number of different applications. Mean errors with uncertainty of the q 2013 Taylor & Francis . The machine vision and robotics community took a particular interest.4% and 3 ^ 2. This projected pattern is distorted (from a calibrated datum) by objects in the scene. but applications have also been developed in computer animation. Centre for Sports Engineering Research. 2003). Y and Z COM positions were 0.Sports Technology. player tracking Introduction The Kinect is a motion sensing device for use in home entertainment. Cameras capable of measuring depth are not new.6%.858 and 7. The Kinect is novel because it costs less than £200. 6.000. UK.5 ^ 0. The geometries were truncated to create torso ‘segments’ and compared. segment tracking and player tracking.9 ^ 1. A participant’s centre of mass (COM) was tracked over a 6 £ 3 m floor area using the Kinect and a MAC system and compared. The Kinect’s low cost and depth camera are an advantage for sports biomechanics and motion analysis. 2013 Vol.6%. machine vision and robotics with costs of around £80. Depth cameras’ traditional domain has been in accurate scanning applications. Sheffield Hallam University. 0. respectively. motion capture.1080/19346182. sports analysis.choppin@shu. in which the maximum and root mean square errors (RMSEs) were 13. 78–85. opening up the use of depth cameras to researchers in a wide range of disciplines.08 m.14 and 0. As a research tool.12. and 12. accepted 13 June 2013) Abstract The objective of this study was to assess the suitability of the Microsoft Kinect depth camera as a tool in segment scanning. structured light systems and camera-based triangulation systems. No.819008 RESEARCH ARTICLE The potential of the Microsoft Kinect in sports analysis and biomechanics SIMON CHOPPIN & JONATHAN WHEAT Sheffield Hallam University. The disadvantage to this is that if existing software does not meet a specific requirement. Centre for Sports Engineering Research. Keywords: Kinect. they already exist in the form of laser-based time-of-flight cameras. the only option is to program a solution yourself. A pattern generated by the projector is imaged by the monochrome camera. which captures separate colour and depth data at 30 Hz. at a resolution of 640 £ 480 pixels. 0.

Scanning using multiple Kinects is possible. Subsequently. & Dekker. Automated object tracking (made easier through depth measurement) has applications in notational performance analysis for tactical and coaching purposes. distance moved and velocity profile can easily be tracked over the duration of play. Zatsiorsky & Seluyanov. COM location and moment of inertia (I) – were calculated using ProEngineer (PTC. UK) – width 415 mm. 2006) are costly. obtaining accurate values is difficult. In-built and third-party algorithms able to automatically track skeleton motion could also be used for simple (and possibly advanced) movement analysis. to capture a complete body segment. Wicke and Dumas (2010) recently suggested that structured light techniques could be used to obtain body segment parameters by more accurately measuring their surface and volume. Metrics such as field/court position. However. 2010). USA). The depth information given by the Microsoft Kinect is expressed as point cloud data in a coordinate system fixed to the monochrome camera. 2002. The complete point cloud from the Kinect-based system was post-processed using 1 cm uniform sub-sampling (chosen by visual inspection as an appropriate compromise between the number of vertices and mesh detail) and mesh fitting (a comparison of the Kinect mesh and ModelMaker mesh is shown in Figure 1). Segment scanning The measurement of body segment inertia parameters is useful for many applications in sport and exercise biomechanics (inverse dynamics for example). & Andriacchi. a global coordinate system common to both systems was defined using three intersection points on a checkerboard. Medical imaging techniques (e. 1955. The aim of this paper was to explore the accuracy of the Kinect in three areas: body scanning and anthropometry. To assess the accuracy of the Kinect as a scanning device. geometric techniques can be time consuming and prone to error in certain segments (Wicke & Dumas. Methods In accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The laser scanner provided a gold-standard estimate of the volume and – after assuming uniform density of 1000 kg/m3 – inertial parameters of the mannequin. One scan from the ModelMaker laser scanner was analysed and served as ground truth. Proprietary algorithms developed by PrimeSense and Microsoft are not only able to use the depth cloud to recognise human users within the field of view but also to calculate joint positions and segment angles for the purposes of gesture recognition and command. Corazza. This ‘point cloud registration’ is difficult to solve. Without access to point registration algorithms. MA..Potential of the Microsoft Kinect The strength of the Kinect is its versatility. Sheffield Hallam University. dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Donaldson. either the camera must move around the segment or the segment must move within the field of view. Dempster. regression techniques (e. The mannequin was rotated and four separate scans were taken to obtain a complete geometry. after assuming a nominal uniform density.g. A full scan with the Kinect results in a number of point clouds which must be aligned correctly in order to create a closed volume. Sheets. described below. through its depth camera it is able to capture point cloud data at 30 Hz. each point cloud was transformed into the global co-ordinate system. Needham. inertia parameters of the lumbar segment – mass. The applications of the Kinect to sports analysis and biomechanics seem obvious. Twenty-five complete scans from the Kinectbased system were analysed. The ability to scan has implications for fast body scanning to estimate body segment inertia parameters – using approaches similar to previous studies which have used scanning techniques to estimate these parameters (Norton. To align the co-ordinate systems of the Kinect and Polhemus.g. . the ‘lumbar’ segment of a Choking Charlie mannequin (Leardal. 1983) are quick but limited and inaccurate. Microsoft has presented a fast algorithm which uses features within the point cloud to locate and rotate separate viewpoints (Izadi et al. effectively scanning a surface as it does so. 2010). 2011). segment tracking for motion analysis and image segmentation for coaching and notational analysis. but measures must be taken to limit the interference of several IR projections – this causes degradation of the depth data. and many different approaches are used. we adopted a hardware-based solution. depth 170 mm and height 770 mm – was scanned using the Kinect and compared with a scan obtained using a ModelMaker D100 (Nikon metrology Belgium) noncontact laser scanner. A Polhemus Liberty electromagnetic tracking system (Polhemus USA) was attached to the mannequin to determine its position and orientation in relation to the Kinect. UK. Both scans (from the Kinect and ModelMaker laser scanner) were truncated with horizontal planes – defined by three points at the upper and lower extremities of the segment (identified using the Polhemus stylus and a pointer on the ModelMaker) to represent an anatomical lumbar segment. The limited field of view of the camera (approximately 608) means that only the surface facing the 79 Kinect is captured. Durkin & Dowling. all procedures requiring ethical clearance were approved by the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing’s research ethics committee.

g. records the colour and depth streams from the Kinect and analyses them postcapture. making this a popular choice for users in the computer animation community. The correlation coefficient was also calculated in each case. and custom software was written to capture these data when using NITE tracking algorithms.80 S. Segment angles were calculated as a projection of the upper arms position onto the appropriate axes plane of the torso segment. To assess the accuracy of skeleton tracking methods. This was achieved using machine learning techniques with a large data-set of real and synthesised body position data (Shotton et al. The Kinect and MAC systems were synchronised using an analog signal available to both systems. 7th cervical vertebrae. and performed each action at a low. Calibration poses can be tolerated and real-time processing can be sacrificed if accuracy of tracking is increased. The objectives of a biomechanics analysis are far removed from those of the typical mass consumer. the freely available NITE algorithms were compared with IPI Soft. requiring only a single frame to capture body pose. They were asked to perform shoulder abduction – adduction and flexion – extension and Kinect for Windows have segment tracking capabilities. Tracking is not real-time but the complexity of the skeleton is increased (e. image processing techniques can be used to automatically obtain player position by threshold and differencing techniques (Mauthner. a vertical plane running from left to right was used. injury risk and joint loading. Player tracking Notational analysis is a useful technique for tactical and coaching analysis. mass and somatotype. but in certain circumstances. The 3D meshes of the scanned torso segment.openni. Of the three available Kinect drivers. 2007).ipisoft. Segment tracking The position and orientation of body segments is important when assessing performance. Choppin & J. and 8th thoracic vertebrae) and right upper arm (anterior shoulder. The second participant repeated the same movement. The software has also recently added support for dual Kinect recording. both approach the problem in significantly different ways. separate participants were used with each software system. self-determined speed. poor visual conditions (background. single-camera twodimensional methods to sophisticated methods using multi-camera calibrated volumes or spatially sensitive sensors. Tilp. a vertical plane running fore-aft was used. and light levels) can make it difficult to isolate a player from an image. Microsoft invested considerable resource in developing a method that works in a different manner. stature. The first participant performed movement with NITE software being used to record full skeleton position throughout the motion. and time available for initial study). whereas IPI Soft was used to record their motion. xiphoid process. The magnitude of the difference between the two measurement systems was assessed using root mean square errors (RMSEs). The Primesense (NITE) software registers an initial pose which a skeleton tracking algorithm ‘locks’ onto the participant. However. with the claim of increased accuracy due to a more complete point cloud. A 12-camera Motion Analysis Corporation (MAC) system was used to record the movements of a participant simultaneously with Kinect data. Koch. shoulder and feet segments are included). IPI Soft was used in a dual Kinect configuration. notational analysis techniques can be particularly labour intensive when manual processing is used. medial and lateral epicondyle of the humerus). allowing tracking in subsequent frames. player position can be tracked during a sporting event to obtain metrics such as distance described by Menache (2000)). only OpenNI/NITE (www. The lefthand mesh shows the geometry obtained by the Kinect. posterior shoulder. & Bischof. Two participants had reflective markers added to their torso (sternal notch. whereas Microsoft’s gave only joint positions. 1997) which gave measurements of systematic and proportional bias within 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Due to practical reasons (availability of participants. 2013). IPI Soft provided full functionality for exporting the requisite data (in the form of BVH files. Methods of obtaining joint information range from simple. It is also important to note that at the time of testing. the OpenNI tracking algorithm gave joint position and segment orientations. Wheat Figure 1. of similar age. In shoulder flexion. The nature of the difference between the two measurement systems (MAC and Kinect) was assessed using ordinary linear products (OLP) regression techniques (Ludbrook. Both participants were male. a commercial motion capture package. In shoulder abduction. and the right-hand mesh shows the geometry obtained by the ModelMaker laser scanner. An image shaded according to depth . 2004). velocity profile and time spent in specific regions of the pitch/court (Hughes & Franks. IPI Soft (www. In some cases.

pilot testing. However.. respectively. in which agreement between whole-body COM and the sacrum position was assessed. and Beek (2004) for a description) on the points in a manually selected region of the floor.6 – 10 m). As a feasibility study. Meijer. Lamoth. The image on the left was taken with the standard colour camera (image converted to grey scale) in the Kinect. The image on the right was constructed from the depth information returned by the Kinect. a single reflective marker was attached to the sacrum of the participant. Another aspect of the depth information given by the Kinect is that the resolution decreases with distance. whereas the colour camera can help with player identification (using clothing colour for example). the PCA returned three orthogonal principle components – the axes of which defined the floor-fixed coordinate system. the movements were recorded as both colour and depth images. fast and efficient object segmentation algorithms are available to segment images according to depth and colour (Mirante et al. A custom algorithm was written to segment the participant within the depth images and estimate the position of their COM (edge detection to segment the individual and centroid calculation of the resulting segmented image). facilitating alignment through visual inspection.Potential of the Microsoft Kinect 81 Figure 2. Georgiev. The floor-fixed coordinate system was then aligned with the court markings by translation in the established floor plane and rotation around the Y-axis such that the X-axis lay along the court’s width and Z-axis along the court’s length. definite edge (Mirante. provides a more robust method of segmenting objects due to a reliable. Player segmentation is possible through streamed depth data. This is most likely a result of the structured light system having to operate over a significant range (0. As the floor points were three-dimensional (3D). The main limitation of the Kinect with regard to this type of analysis is the size of the available tracking space. The combination of colour and depth cameras within the Kinect enhances the functionality of the device. Principal components 1 and 2 lay within the floor plane. automatic object recognition through OpenNI is limited to 4 m. 3D points returned by the Kinect that lay . 2011). and principal component 3 was normal to the floor defining the X-axis. This was achieved by projecting representations of the unit vectors of the floor-fixed coordinate system onto the video image of the Kinect. The motion was recorded with a 12-camera MAC and the Kinect. First. these could be used to segment images at depths of over 4 m. Z-axis and Yaxis. 2011) as illustrated in Figure 2. indicated that this assumption was appropriate. For the Kinect. & Gotchev. see Daffertshofer. which was assumed approximately equal to the participant’s COM. Object segmentation from images is easier and more reliable when depth information is used instead of colour. the Kinect was used to capture the movement of a participant performing mock badminton movements within a 6 x 3 m playing area. Although the depth data are available to around 10 m. For the MAC. The plots below each image show the intensity of the values taken along each image in the position of the white line. a coordinate system fixed to the floor was defined by performing principal components analysis (PCA.

0 ^ 2.6%.118 for the flexion motion.418 and 3.2 ^ 2.3% and 2 3. 0. Y and Z directions of the 6 £ 3 m playing area gave RMSEs in the X.7%. Systematic bias was significantly higher (exceeding the 95% CIs) for shoulder abduction. Ixx.858 and 7.5 ^ 0. Results Segment scanning On comparing the inertial properties of torso segments created by the Kinect and laser scanner (Figure 1). the maximum and RMSEs were 44. The nature of the difference between the two measurement systems was also assessed using OLP regression techniques (Ludbrook. Agreement between the COM estimates determined using the MAC and Kinect data was assessed by calculating the RMS difference. For segment angles captured Discussion This paper has explored the viability of the Kinect for use in three distinct sports analysis themes: Figure 3.618 for the NITE and IPI Soft algorithms. the percentage error in mass. . 0.08 m. The OLP analysis (Table II) revealed that the quality of tracking in the vertical (Y) direction was considerably worse than along the length (Z) and width (X) of the court. Table II contains the complete results of the OLP analysis. Errors are presented as the average error for 25 separate scans with the standard deviation as the stated uncertainty. COM. nominal mass.624 also highlights the poor agreement between MAC and Kinect in the Y direction. Segment tracking Figures 3 and 4 show movement traces for the flexion and abduction movements for the IPI Soft and NITE tracking algorithms. the maximum and RMSEs were 13. respectively (Figure 5).598 for the abduction motion and 19.498 for shoulder flexion using the NITE and IPI Soft algorithms. and the smallest average error and uncertainty were observed in the position of the COM. Choppin & J. Iyy and Izz was 2 1. 2. Each 3D point was assigned an equal. For segment angles captured using IPI Soft. Wheat within a bounding box coincident with the playing area were assumed to represent the participant – the minimum height of the bounding box was set to 400 mm above the floor to avoid the influence of noisy points from the floor plane at large distances from the Kinect. respectively. Systematic bias in the Y direction was 405 mm compared with 2 74.9 ^ 1.8 ^ 2. The COM of these points was assumed to represent the COM of the participant.288 for the abduction motion and 36. A comparison between MAC and Kinect shoulder flexion segment angles.458 and 12. IPI Soft segment tracking is shown on the left and NITE on the right.12. 10. The OLP regression measured systematic bias as 4.158 for the flexion motion. Yand Z directions of 0. The largest average errors and uncertainties were observed in the principal moments of inertias.8%. 1997) and by calculating the correlation coefficient. 2 3.7 and 2 161 mm in the X and Z directions.4%.82 S. using NITE. respectively.158 and 20. respectively. Table I shows the full set of results from the OLP analysis.14 and 0. respectively. A poor correlation coefficient of 0.078 and 20. Player tracking A comparison between the calculated COM position from the Kinect and MAC systems in the X.78 and 8.

IPI Soft Flexion Abduction NITE Flexion Abduction r a (8) CI (8) b CI 0. The use of the Kinect to capture sporting motion has not been considered in this study.41 10. This paper compared the Kinect and MAC systems during two simple shoulder movements. Segment tracking is an integral aspect of the Kinect. The Kinect offers an inexpensive solution which requires no attached markers or calibration. The methodology of obtaining segment geometry exhibited in this paper relies on a Polhemus – or equivalent system capable of tracking 3D position and orientation – which adds to the complexity and cost of the process.83 Potential of the Microsoft Kinect Figure 4.17/5. It is important to note that the analyses carried out in this paper can be repeated after purchasing a Kinect (.45 1.984 0. However.55/10. analyses requiring body segment inertia parameters are rarely conducted without this type of system (e.2 1. combining the Kinect with such a system allows scanning directly into an anatomical coordinate system and segmentation to be carried out ‘on-the-fly’.68 6.30 . the Kinect provides a means to conveniently analyse human motion. IPI Soft segment tracking is shown on the left and NITE on the right. Furthermore.42/1. The results of an ordinary least products regression between the recorded MAC and Kinect segment angles. For illustrations of body motion or analysis of larger-scale movement patterns. The observed level of systematic bias could be due to a misalignment of the global/local coordinate sets or a difference in joint centre location. systematic (a) and proportional (b) biases and their associated CIs. The RMSEs and bias levels revealed in this study suggest that the Kinect is not currently accurate enough for studies requiring high levels of accuracy and precision.993 0. £200).7 3.49 8. the limited range of movements and use of different participants render this result insignificant.61 3. However. The results of this study suggest that the commercial IPI Soft was able to more accurately calculate joint angles.09 1. The analysis was limited in this study as it assumed a constant density in all cases. but this approach tests the volumetric equivalence of the scan given by the Kinect.30/3.11/1.02/1.6 1. although custom software is required to access and process the data appropriately. Table I.22/1. A comparison between MAC and Kinect shoulder abduction segment angles.988 3.2/10.59 11.26 1. and various methods are available to give segment position and orientation. for example. As a scanner the Kinect performed well. A more comprehensive accuracy study is needed to quantitatively assess the accuracy of the Kinect in segment tracking. (2) segment tracking and orientation measurement and (3) participant tracking for notational and tactical analysis.49 1.06 1.14 0. and more complex density profiles could be applied for greater anatomical realism if required.998 4. optoelectronic system). (1) segment scanning for measurement of inertial parameters. The table includes correlation coefficient (r). and the limited frame rate of the device (30 Hz) is likely to limit its application for high-speed movements.12 1. with errors lower than those reported by Wicke and Dumas (2010) for geometric models.g.

The table includes correlation coefficient (r). References Daffertshofer.875/0. & Dowling. W. more sophisticated tracking techniques and increased sampling rates. systematic (a) and proportional (b) biases and their associated CIs.885 0. PCA in studying coordination and variability: A tutorial. L. G.7 405 2161 CI (mm) b CI 2100/49. Annals of Biomedical Engineering.548/0. In motions that involve reaching. r X (width) 0.996 Y (height) 0. It is feasible that with more sophisticated tracking techniques. Space requirements of the seated operator. visit www. . shown in a 1:1 aspect.624 Z (length) 0.587 0. Accuracy is currently not high enough for some applications. 55–159.997/1. J. Choppin & J. Future work should assess the accuracy of the Kinect in predicting the motion of participants’ true COM through more sophisticated tracking algorithms and a complete MAC marker set. (1955). there is a need for the development of effective software and future studies exploring their accuracy in specific domains. 55 (WADC-55-159. AD-087-892). (2004). it is likely that more sophisticated hardware will be released.. larger capture volumes. The results of an ordinary least products regression between the recorded MAC and Kinect player positions. WADC technical report 55159. 34(9). Dempster. Body segment parameter estimation of the human lower leg using an elliptical model with validation from DEXA. such as simulated smashes or swings of the racket. & Beek. The right plot shows participant movement as a projection onto the plane of the floor as captured by the Kinect and MAC systems. Clinical Biomechanics. The error seen is due to the inclusion of the racket in assessing COM for the Kinect.991 A (mm) 274. Conclusions The low cost and automatic tracking capabilities of depth cameras (such as the Kinect) make them potentially revolutionary for sports biomechanics and motion analysis. A comparison between the MAC system and Kinect in recording participant COM over a 6 £ 3 m area. but also due to the error arising from the use of a single sacrum marker in the MAC system..629 2154/2167 0. Lamoth.. J. com/research/space-requirements-of-the-seated-operator/ Durkin. This reflects what would happen to the true COM of the participant but would not manifest in the position of the sacrum marker. The Kinect provides depth data which are very useful for image segmentation and object tracking.mendeley. T. Wheat Figure 5. depthbiomechanics. J. (2006). but there is potential for its use in coaching and education domains. C.01 366/440 0.4 1. this error could be reduced. the centre of area of the player moves towards the extended for more information. The poor agreement and high amount of systematic bias in the Y direction support this hypothesis. C.896 resolutions.00 0. 19. J. 1483–1493. 415–428. The left plot shows position in the X. Retrieved from http://www. A. Figure 5 shows that macro movements can be captured with acceptable accuracy compared with previous studies which use image segmentation (Mauthner et al.. In the future. Yand Z directions from top to bottom.84 S. J. It is noteworthy that the choice of gold standard in this study is likely to have artificially increased error. Meijer. which gives increased Table II. We hope to address this need in future research by releasing software applications under a free licence. In order for the Kinect and future (more advanced) depth cameras to benefit the sports analysis and biomechanics community. There is a need to develop specific software for users in the sport and coaching community. P. O. 2007). This will only increase the suitability of depth cameras for sporting and coaching

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