Motion Capture and Analysis Laboratory (MOCA)

Primary mission and goals

Motion and surface capture technology enables researchers to accurately record movement of objects through space and time. This technology has enabled a variety of applications at GW including the synthesis of motions of digital characters, tracking instruments in image-guided surgery, analyzing motion of Olympic swimmers, understanding fundamental cognitive factors surrounding our ability to navigate, analysis of sports performance, analysis of primate locomotion, creation of performance pieces based on capturing dance motion, and developing and testing the motions of unmanned aerial vehicles.

MOCA was established in 2005 using funds from the office of Vice President for Research under the Centers and Institutes Facilitating Fund. The objective of MOCA is to provide the infrastructure (laboratory space, equipment, support personnel) to enable researchers, educators, and clinicians across the University and the greater Washington D.C. area to capture, analyze, and apply digitized motion for purposes that enhance the education and research missions of GW. MOCA has enabled a number of investigators to explore new avenues of research that lead to externally funded projects as well as to allow existing projects to realize their full potential. MOCA and the Institute for Computer Graphics have acted as a catalyst and a focal point to enable researchers and educators to conduct collaborative activities across traditional discipline boundaries.

Faculty from a wide range of disciplines are involved in MOCA. The leadership comes from SEAS and the CCAS. James Hahn, Ph.D. is a full Professor in the Department of Computer Science. He has a joint appointment with the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology as a Professor of Computer Medicine. He is also the founding Director of the Institute for Computer Graphics as well as the Institute for Biomedical Engineering. John Philbeck, Ph.D., Associate Professor, is Director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology and the founding Director of the GW Mind-Brain Institute. He is also a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the GW Hospital. Taeyoung Lee, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Brian Richmond is a Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Curator of the Division of Anthropology, Professor at Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History.

If you would like to access the resources of MOCA, please send an email to

National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Award

MOCA received an NSF MRI award in 2013 to develop a novel instrument for large-scale, real-time, dense 3D motion-capture of dynamic scenes. This instrument will enable measuring, in real-time, dense 3D scene-structure and color-appearance information over at least a 200 m3 volume at sub-cm resolution. This gives users the ability to track, at unprecedented scale and resolution, scene-appearance, 3D-structure and their temporal evolution. In a broad range of fields, knowledge of the evolution of ground truth 3D structure and scene appearance is invaluable for validating scientific theories.

As an example, with an instrument of this nature we can track and model complex 3D phenomena, such as the waving clothing of entire crowds of moving people, or the time-evolution of a flock of flying robots. The proposed instrument is high-resolution both spatially and temporally, enabling spatial scanning at centimeter accuracies over large volumes, to sub-millimeter accuracies over focused regions. In the temporal domain, the instrument is capable of real-time operation at 30 Hz; for sensors that operate at higher frequencies, the system still fuses data to produce a time-evolution of dense 3D model shape and appearance.

In developing this instrument, we will leverage key technical methodologies and team-member expertise to fuse (in real-time) measurements from a wide variety of sensor modalities including infrared optical motion capture, depth cameras (RGB-D sensors), grey-scale cameras, color cameras, and laser range-finders. Upon completion, this instrument will be continuously operated and maintained by George Washington University and made widely available for shared-use by the broader community. The development will involve personnel from a wide variety of disciplines including robotics, computer graphics, anthropology, exercise sciences, physical therapy, biomechanics, and psychology.

Participating Faculty

The following lists a number of faculty involved in motion-capture/analysis research in MOCA:

  • James Hahn, Department of Computer Science, is interested in capturing the motion of medical instruments and anatomy for image-guided surgery

  • John Philbeck, Department of Psychology, is studying cognitive factors for human navigation.

  • Brian Richmond, Department of Anthropology, is studying the evolution of human gait and hand in earliest tool technology.

  • Jerome Danoff, Department of Exercise Science, is interested in studying injuries associated with sports activities.

  • Maida Withers, Department of Theater and Dance, is interested in creating new performances using computer-generated visualizations controlled by human motion.

  • Taeyoung Lee, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is interested the dynamics and control of flexible multibody systems, specifically for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Research Projects

  • RGB-D scan of the surface of human body for biomedical applications.

  • Fusion of different sensing modalities to densely scan large scenes showing the MOCA lab.


  • Space 30 feet x 35 feet x 10 feet

  • 26 Vicon XM cameras

  • Velodyne LIDAR Sensor