Kayan Ma

Undergraduate student, Systems Design Engineering

When she was still an undergraduate, Kayan Ma — people call her Kayley — used a Hollywood-style motion-capture system to create virtual humans that can interact with simulated environments in real time. Her work could transform everything from assembly line design to telemedicine.

On her co-op terms at the National Research Council’s Virtual Environment Technologies Centre, and later as a leader of a fourth-year design team, Kayley worked with a multi-camera, large-volume motion-capture system, familiar to many as the system that animated Gollum and King Kong.

Kayley’s major breakthrough was to integrate motion capture with the simulation and modelling of human movements. Users of the new system can step inside the simulated environments and interact with virtual objects. Their virtual self will move realistically, and in real time.

The new system has the potential to transform assembly line training and planning. Without motion capture, the simulation of a single assembly line task can take days or weeks. With real-time motion tracking, these simulations might be done in hours or minutes. The economic impact is staggering: A 10 per cent increase in efficiency on a standard automotive assembly line can result in up to $500,000,000 in savings every year.

But it’s not just faster – it’s better. Traditional simulations often rely on unrealistic computer-generated motions. The new system allows for more accurate simulation by capturing real human motions.

For her achievements, Kayley was named the 2005 Ontario Co-op Student of the