Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Can low-cost motion-tracking systems substitute a Polhemus system when researching social motor coordination in children? Behav Res Methods 2017 04;49(2):588-601



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-84964682639   11 Citations


Functionally stable and robust interpersonal motor coordination has been found to play an integral role in the effectiveness of social interactions. However, the motion-tracking equipment required to record and objectively measure the dynamic limb and body movements during social interaction has been very costly, cumbersome, and impractical within a non-clinical or non-laboratory setting. Here we examined whether three low-cost motion-tracking options (Microsoft Kinect skeletal tracking of either one limb or whole body and a video-based pixel change method) can be employed to investigate social motor coordination. Of particular interest was the degree to which these low-cost methods of motion tracking could be used to capture and index the coordination dynamics that occurred between a child and an experimenter for three simple social motor coordination tasks in comparison to a more expensive, laboratory-grade motion-tracking system (i.e., a Polhemus Latus system). Overall, the results demonstrated that these low-cost systems cannot substitute the Polhemus system in some tasks. However, the lower-cost Microsoft Kinect skeletal tracking and video pixel change methods were successfully able to index differences in social motor coordination in tasks that involved larger-scale, naturalistic whole body movements, which can be cumbersome and expensive to record with a Polhemus. However, we found the Kinect to be particularly vulnerable to occlusion and the pixel change method to movements that cross the video frame midline. Therefore, particular care needs to be taken in choosing the motion-tracking system that is best suited for the particular research.

Author List

Romero V, Amaral J, Fitzpatrick P, Schmidt RC, Duncan AW, Richardson MJ


Joseph L. Amaral PhD Assistant Professor in the Neurology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Behavioral Research
Cooperative Behavior