The Gloves are Off – (well, on actually)…Rokoko Test Drive

Rokoko has released a new motion capture Glove system, Smartgloves, which offers an easy and very cost-effective hand Mo-Cap solution.  The gloves start from just $895 pre-order and provide a new powerful option for both Live and standard motion capture. While the Rokoko gloves naturally work with the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro, they have been designed to integrate with a range of modern MoCap suits.

Note the complex finger arrangement

While for some time people have enjoyed wireless motion capture suits with embedded sensors, especially systems like Rokoko and X-sens, which have been powerful tools for body motion capture, there has been somewhat of a gap in the market for affordable reliable motion capture gloves. Inside high-end major capture volume systems it has been possible to capture finger movement (See the Vicon/UE4/Shogun example below) but these are expensive high-end solutions. The problem of finger movement is extremely tricky due to occlusion, scale, and the complexity of hand movements that people enjoy. Until now there has been a real problem with independent filmmakers, and researchers having many options for lightweight affordable systems with a low technical footprint.

A high-end Vicon marker solution that allows for complex finger movement including fingers interlocking.

At the fxguide tech lab, we recently test drove the new Rokoko Smartgloves. And for the price, we were seriously impressed. They are easy to wear, fairly accurate, and vastly cheaper than almost every other option. There are several companies now looking to produce the next generation of gloves, companies like StretchSense (MoCap Pro SuperSplay) and Manus Prime II. Both of these new glove options are extremely interesting in their own right but they cost upwards of US$3,500. The Rokoko Smartgloves are a quarter of this price. We rated them as ‘fairly accurate’ as the problem is extremely complex and for high-end work, major capture volumes are still the gold standard.  But the Smartgloves provide so much as they are easy to use, simple to integrate, and provide most of what is wanted certainly for any live application. Most significantly, the gloves provide a huge improvement for realism in doing character work. Even if some later animation work might be required when using the gloves for complex animated hand movements such as playing the piano, many users will find the raw output of the gloves remarkable useful. Hands are just so expressive in any character work and it is hard to imagine anyone with a suit not wanting a pair of these new breakthrough new gloves.

There are 7 x 6 degree of freedom sensors per glove running at 400Hz and powered by a remote USB battery cabled to your hands. The company cannot ship the batteries Internationally, so we bought a simple pair of USB Jackery Power2Go Powerbanks for $40. We used the included long version of the USB cables so I could put the batteries in my pockets and thread the cords inside my shirt down to my hands. This is important as it is nice to move the weight of the batteries away from your hands so as to not affect your movement. The glove sensors sit on the back of the hand and the back of the fingers, but the tips of your fingers are not covered. The main backing is made of Polyamide and Spandex.

The inside of the gloves is just like normal genuine leather gloves. The gloves are very comfortable, but it is worth spending time to get the right size, they come in S, M, L and XL (unisex). They should be worn tightly to make sure the sensors don’t slide.

You might find that you need some padding under the sensors for prolonged use, while they are comfortable, after a while the hard plastic on the back of one’s hand can rub. These motion trackers do not include magnetometers, so they are immune to magnetic distortion. There is a simple calibration setup and then they should remain in 3D orientation accuracy ± 1 deg.

We found that there was a small drift accumulates overtime, requires re-calibrate every 15 minutes or so if you are doing detailed work. Calibration is easy but systems like this, without the benefit of an active capture volume, have no absolute position, so some drift is actually to be expected. What is nice is that the system can be configured to provide plausible arm movement is you are not using a suit at all – as might be the case for a VR application.

We rigged our gloves to provide data to the Rokoko Studio Live which then streamed into UE4. It worked remarkably well. The acid test with data gloves is touching each of one’s fingers to the thumb, (the classic ‘opposing thumb’) given there is no sensor on the end of your actual fingers this is mathematically complex for the system to solve. The gloves did a very solid result, all but my smallest finger would reliably look like it was touching correctly.

opposing finger and thumb test

Depending on the rigging of your character you may find some issues with aligning the neural pose the joint orientation. I confess we have an Xsens suit and not a Rokoko suit, but the team at Rokoko did comment that they wanted the gloves to be ‘suit agnostic’ and not just for owners of their Rokoko suit. To this end, we understand there will be an explicit X-Sens suit configuration in the near future.

The range of the Wifi is said to be 100m, we never got close to this distance to test this in the fxguide lab, so we never had any drop out issues. The gloves stream at 100fps, which is important. Lower fps would produce a much less useful sampling and possibly jerky movement.

In terms of plugins, the company supports Unreal, Unity, Blender, Maya, MoBu, and Houdini. We just tested it with UE4 and the Rokoko app.

The only slightly negative thing is that the gloves are not washable. This means on any long project such as with game development, you would want people to have their own gloves. You could disinfect them with wipes but at this price, it would be sensible to just give everyone their own set.

Summary: We loved them, we have been waiting for a cheap solid, and reliable glove and our guess is that these will sell out very quickly. While the company is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, where they make the gloves, some electronic component parts are sourced from Asia. The company does not expect supply chain issues but in this COVID world, all shipping and trade is somewhat stressed. In short: they have a winner on their hands.

Rokoko is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, and with teams located in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Athens

The launch video from Rokoko: