Friday 2 November 2012

Tai Chi Elements virtual training environment

[Thanks very much to my friend, and reader, Ashley for pointing this out to me]

An interesting kickstarter proposal for a new virtual environment for training in tai chi, is currently open for backers.

The idea seems to be that it's a virtual world where people can study 3D models of "Tai Chi masters" developed through motion capture technology. This is an interesting project and I've made a pledge. I have to say though that I'm sceptical as to what the real benefit of this might be, but am supportive of it as an interesting initiative.

The reason I'm sceptical is that they don't talk about things like being able to capture your movements directly using a kinect for example to match your body positions to that of the motion capture model. Without this feature, I can't really see what the benefit of the motion capture is. Tai chi is after all about subtle rotations of the body core/centre/dan-tien. The positions of your arms and legs are a secondary consideration, as they should follow the movement of your centre. The 3D animated model would potentially suffer from the drawback of capturing limb position very well but miss the movement of the centre. In other words, why not just watch a video (even a multi-angle video) of a real master, rather than removing yourself one step through this animated 3D model. Because it's an immersive 3D environment/game that's why - which I guess in itself is a benefit if you are into computer games.

So it's obviously not the all singing all dancing virtual in training environment that I would want. But as with most things in life, that would need to be developed over time. This project looks to be a good first step on that road, and perhaps if I help them out it might open up chances to include all these "more advanced" features in the future. I'm happy to put a little bit of money towards it, to reward their initiative. It's easy to talk (or write), I give respect to people who are actually trying to do.

PS.  I notice that some of the larger pledges include all-inclusive residential courses. Now I don't know anything about who is running these or what they might include, but giving them the benefit of the doubt that it will be a fair amount of tai chi tuition, these prices seem to be pretty good value. Hence even if you don't care in the slightest about the 3D game, it might be quite a cheap way to get some good residential tuition, or a tai chi retreat holiday!

EDIT: Having failed to get anywhere near their £75,000 funding target, they are trying again with an "incremental approach" and a radically reduced target at only 7% of the original goal. At the time of writing it looks to have attracted roughly the same level of interest (i.e. mainly people buying residential courses who they presumably know already in most cases).

Thursday 1 November 2012

Structural warm up exercises

About time I posted an actual tai chi video, so here's one I really like. Great set of generic warm-up exercises with a detailed commentary. Extremely articulate explanations based on structure and bio-mechanics, without any supernatural mumbo-jumbo, which makes it all the more authoritative for me.

Simple exercises, but if you understand the principle they can be powerful. That is the secret of tai chi - being able to do a small number of things extremely well. The art of course is understanding what those small number of things actually are!