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Using motion-capture technology to identify movements that alter tissue in dancers

In a marvelous duet between humans and technology, the late choreographer Merce Cunningham used motion-capture sensors on dancers' bodies to record movement and project the electronic dance as visual design for his 1999 work BIPED. Now, computer scientist Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann, PhD, of the University of Geneva in Switzerland has used sensors to capture what happens to dancers' internal tissues during the movements they perform day after day. She presented her animations at a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference.

As New Scientist recently reported:

[Magnenat-Thalmann's] team carried out MRIs – but also asked six ballet dancers to perform typical dance moves while wearing a motion-capture suit. This allowed them to animate the underlying bone image with each dancer's movements.

The result is a moving three-dimensional model of the ballerina's skeleton – that mimics her actual movements. Algorithms then calculate how much stress is placed on each part of the body, drawing attention to areas that are likely to cause trouble in the future.

The findings could help doctors address joint problems and cartilage deformation among dancers. (And perhaps, one hopes, save a few from needing altogether-too-common hip replacements?)

Previously: Is repetitive heading in soccer a health hazard?Measuring the physical effects of yoga for seniorsWalking-and-texting impairs posture – and walking, and texting and Researchers look at brain activity to study falling

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