When I saw Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers back in 2002 I was amazed, like everybody else, by the digitally animated creature Gollum. The filmmakers had achieved something extraordinary and I realized there and then that I would never again be surprised the possibilities of motion-capture technique. But I was wrong. The designers at Front make everybody surprised with their innovative design method. They make freehand sketches in the air and record the strokes with motion-capture technology. The information is then digitized into 3D models.
One of the main ideas in The Medici Effect is that if you apply existing concepts in fields where they haven’t been used before it dramatically increases your chances of being innovative. The Front design team is a very good example of that. When they placed themselves at the intersection of 3D animation and furniture design and applied motion-capture where it doesn’t “belong” it gave them originality as well as attention. Arguably, it would take some rather advanced technical breakthrough to revolutionize the way motion-capture is used for 3D animation in films or computer games but all they had to do at Front was to use the technique in a new way.
Naturally, this is not their only design method but all their work is characterized by the same open-mindedness that enables them to break down the associative barriers between fields. When I assumed that I would never again be surprised by the possibilities of motion-capture it was because I didn’t see beyond those barriers.