Updated: Nov 9, 2020
3D Motion Analysis Internship Program By: Kai-Lan Olson, current intern
Prior to starting this internship, my knowledge about 3D motion capture was limited to its applications in animation and the arts. Like most people, I had seen YouTube videos of actors sporting body suits dotted with many small reflective markers. I had also taken a college class which met in a 3D motion capture studio and introduced me to creating digital art with 3D technology. I had a vague notion that 3D motion capture had clinical applications and the scientist in me wanted to find out more. I was delighted when I found The Micheli Center 3D Motion Analysis Internship application online because it married my interests in 3D motion capture and science.
My main project has been working with Amy Whited, the staff 3D biomechanist, to develop a 3D dance study. This project is particularly exciting to me because a ballet-related injury in high school is what piqued my interest in dance science and injury prevention/rehabilitation. When I started this internship, the 3D dance study was still in its infancy, which was great because I have been able to learn about the behind-the-scenes planning involved in designing a research study. My first few weeks were spent conducting a literature review to become familiar with the current state of 3D dance research, meeting with Amy and other members of the clinical research team to trouble-shoot various aspects of the protocol, and drafting documents to send to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), which reviews research proposals before data collection can begin. Working with a small team on the initial project development phase has given me a taste for what it’s like to be a biomechanics researcher.
When I’m not working on the developing the dance study, I have been learning about all aspects of 3D motion analysis. This includes reading about the principles behind 3D motion analysis, calibrating the cameras, learning how to properly place the 3D reflective markers on joints, labeling raw data in the analysis software, and understanding how raw data is transformed into valuable information like joint angles and torques. The type of data generated by 3D motion capture is often invisible to the human eye and even 2D cameras. For instance, 3D cameras can quantify the precise millisecond rotational order of body segments. If your body segment order is not optimal (think of the exactness required in a golf swing or softball pitch), inefficient energy transfer could result in injury. This state-of-the-art technology is still relatively new and differentiates The Micheli Center from other injury prevention facilities, so being able to experience this technology firsthand has been really special.
Perhaps the greatest part about this internship has been the ability to tailor my experience to my individual interests. Because of my personal background in dance, I have enjoyed focusing on the 3D dance study. However, someone else’s 3D motion analysis internship experience could look quite different, depending on their interests. I would encourage any scientifically-minded students interested in injury prevention or movement analysis to apply!
The 3D motion analysis internship has given me a holistic view of the 3D analysis process and has provided me with more insight on the types of questions 3D biomechanics can and cannot answer. In the future, I hope I will be able to take the tools I learned from this internship and design my own 3D study!
Kai-Lan Olson is a neuroscience major at Yale University and is halfway through her internship program. If you’re interested in the 3D Motion Analysis Internship, please click here for more information.