UWB upgrade promises real-time 3D motion capture

September 22, 2021 // By Rich Pell
UWB upgrade promises real-time 3D motion capture
Engineers at the University of California San Diego say they have developed upgrades to ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless technology that could enable it to be used for real-time 3D motion capture.

UWB is a wireless communications technology for short-range use and fast and stable transmission of data. Promising greater accuracy than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for determining the location and movement of other devices, UWB also has the potential to open up even bigger possibilities, say the researchers.

These include indoor navigation; smart warehouses that provide precise and real-time location of inventory and personnel; and 3D motion capture that can be done wirelessly in real-time for applications such as VR and sports analytics. However, say the researchers, several limitations of current UWB technology must first be overcome: UWB systems need to work much faster than they do now, operate at extremely low power, and provide high accuracy in 3D localization.

To address this, the researchers developed a prototype UWB system that communicates data with a latency of just one millisecond; it uses so little power that it can run continuously for more than two years on a small coin cell battery; and it can pinpoint 3D location to within three centimeters for stationary objects, and eight centimeters for moving objects.

The new system, say the researchers, fundamentally changes the process that UWB systems use to locate an object. UWB systems typically consist of two main components: a small tracking device called a tag, which can be attached to an object, and a set of devices called anchors that are installed at various spots in the environment to detect radio signals from the tag.

The way UWB tracking currently works is that the tag sends out signals to all the anchors, and the anchors in turn send these signals back to the tag. The system measures the times that it takes for these signals to return to the tag. It then uses this information to calculate the distances between the tag and each anchor, and the tag’s location can then be triangulated.

The problem with this process, say the researchers, is that it

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