Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Something in the way he moves: bringing the science of body language perception to Dr. Oz

[ Today's post is written by Ashley Blanchard, Rutgers University graduate student. Ashley can be contacted at ]

ArthurTo what great lengths will men go to appease their wives or girlfriends? That question was recently answered when three men, in relationships of varying lengths, agreed to be on The Dr. Oz Show. (At left, Arthur Bakai suits up)

In preparation for the show, all three men came to the Motion Capture Lab in the Psychology department at Rutgers-Newark to have their walking motions recorded within our motion capture system. Each man had to wiggle into a tight fitting lycra outfit and stand still while James Thomas, another graduate student in Maggie Shiffrar’s lab, and I carefully attached 30 sensors to the joints of his limbs and head. In this thoroughly uncomfortable situation, each man sighed that he couldn’t believe what he let his partner talk him into. Aaah, what men will do in the name of love. (Below, Joe Zilder stands still while Dr. Schiffrar, John Franchek and Ashley Blanchard arrange the equipment)

Joe Zilder
After being suited up, the men were asked to walk casually within a 3 x 4 meter capture area while our system measured the 3D locations of each of the 30 sensors several times per second. After collecting these motion capture data, each of the men was freed from the sensors and lycra suit. Let me tell you, after an hour or two, these guys were happy to be done with motion capture technology. Our lab manager and technician extraordinaire, John Franchak, took the motion capture data from each man and used it to construct a point-light movie of each man’s gait. These movies show only the locations of the moving sensors and thus are devoid of the face and bodily form information visible in typical movies. Previous research has demonstrated that naive observers can determine a person’s gender, identity, mood, and even the intention to deceive from the movements of these points. The Dr. Oz Show plans on showing these point-light movies to the partners of these men to determine whether the women could identify their partner, and if so, whether women in longer relationships were better able to identify their partner’s gait. Past research on action perception from our lab suggests that this should be the case. (At right, the last participant of the day, James Davis, has a little fun in his suit)

Above, what the computer sees - these images will be cleaned up and an anonymous 'body' will be overlayed so that it will look like a person walking.

For more information on motion capture technology and our research on the visual perception of body language, please visit the ROAR (Research on Autism at Rutgers) website.

Note: This episode was taped on Jan 12th and has not yet aired. Visit The Dr. Oz Show for more information.

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