Sony is ready to motion-capture its way into the metaverse, but only in Japan

Sony is trying its hand at the metaverse with new  motion capture devices collectively known as Mocopi.

Comprised of six color-coded sensors, the Mocopi system goes at key parts of a person's body (your head, hip, wrists, and ankles) using velcro straps or a clip in order to capture movement via a dedicated smartphone app. With this tech, users can control an anime style avatar in real time to either create videos or hang out with people in compatible metaverse services like VRChat. It’s similar to a big Hollywood-style motion capture system but without the dedicated equipment or operators. Sony hopes Mocopi will help content creators “involved in movie and animation production” and facilitate development in key areas like fitness platforms, according to the announcement. (opens in new tab)

If the preview video is to be believed (opens in new tab), Mocopi is actually pretty accurate. The avatar closely follows a person's motions from running, dancing, and even lip syncing. Once done, users can view the video of the avatar in motion on the mobile app.

Features

The sensors themselves measure 32mm (a little over an inch) in diameter and weigh 8 grams (0.28 ounces). They’re battery-powered and come with a charging case, so users don’t have to worry about getting tangled in cords. According to the Mocopi product page (opens in new tab), each sensor has a battery life of up to 10 hours depending on how often you would use them. They even have a protection rating of IP65 meaning they’re completely protected against dust and can survive splashes of water.

The setup seems pretty straightforward (opens in new tab) too. Each puck connects to smartphones via Bluetooth LE, but must stay stationary during the pairing process so they can connect properly. Afterward, you calibrate the sensors so the avatar is properly synced.

Video recordings will be saved as an MP4 file with a 1080p (1920x1080) resolution and a frame rate of 30fps. The motion data itself is recorded separately, which can be uploaded to a PC for further animation. If you don’t like the avatar’s anime style, you can upload your own.

Sony will provide a Mocopi software development kit (SDK) on December 15, allowing creative users to create custom assets. Motion data can also be edited on select 3D development software like the Unity game engine and MotionBuilder. The full list of supported software is still unknown, but that info will be released on December 15 alongside the SDK.

Mocopi will be exclusive to Japan as it launches in late January 2023 for 49,500 yen (around $356 USD) alongside the official app. Pre-orders start mid-December.  It’s unknown whether or not Mocopi will see an international release, but considering the app is entirely in English, it’s definitely possible. Besides, Sony is no stranger to exporting its tech to willing buyers overseas.

Future of VR

Admittedly, Mocopi is pretty cool, but it’s way too early to tell whether or not it can convince people to join the metaverse. Part of the hesitancy is the high barrier to entry whether it's expensive headsets, the lack of a killer app, or in Sony’s case, limited smartphone support. According to the Mocopi product page, Android users must own one of six Sony Xperia models like the 5 IV to use the app. The selection for iOS devices is much bigger, however, ranging from the iPhone 12 to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Still, putting virtual reality tech into the hands of users may be the push the metaverse needs to break into the mainstream.

If you’re interested in diving into virtual reality, be sure to check out TechRadar’s recently updated best VR headsets list.

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