Re: marey/langer/chaos/robotics

Andy Clarke (
Sat, 25 Sep 1999 19:57:44 +0100

>The Earliest Motion Capture?
>The late 19th century inventor, Etienne-Jules Marey, created a mechanical
>apparatus in order to register the trajectory of the wing of a bird in free
>flight -- and this device registers the up and down and back and forth
>movements of the wings simultaneously. It "could transmit to a distance any
>movement whatever and register it on a plane surface". Marey made various
>instruments to study motion as did others of that time -- making measuring
>devices which attached to the body at one end and left a mark at the other.
>(see Marta Braun's *Picturing Time: the work of Etienne-Jules Marey
>(1830-1904)*. London: U. of Chicago Press, 1992.)

I think what is needed on this list, and within dance and technology, is
more precision when talking about technology, rather than seeing technology
(and the work done with it) as homogenous.

It is stretching the point to claim, for example, that the work done by
Marey is motion capture - it is 'motion recording' (if we have to find a
term for it). The aim of motion capture is to record motion in a useable
form (eg for animation); 'motion recording' merely documents the motion.
One can regard the Marey's work as being a *precursor* of motion capture
(and even this is stretching the point a little) but not as equivalent to

Terms such as motion capture have a very clear meaning outside of this
list, and their deliberate misuse contributes to the hype that surrounds
dance and technology, and to the lack of intelligent, informed criticism of
the work in this area.

While we are on the subject, the other term that I see routinely being
misused on this list, and within dance and technology as a whole, is
"virtual" - especially in the term "virtual dancer" - when all it is is an
animated dancer.

Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke
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