Hand Engine updates

Hand Engine 1.2.0 Released

Enhanced features including OptiTrack integration in Hand Engine 1.2.0

Announcing Hand Engine 1.2.0

In this new release, we’ve focused our attention on developing features that you’ve told us will have the highest impact on you.

And, of course, if you have some feedback we are always keen to hear it: post a comment!

Key features of this new release

Express calibration improved

Save time with improved Express calibration

We’ve updated the machine learning model with thumb and splay detection even more accurate than before, using a calibration that can be done in seconds.

Expanded support for optical systems

Better support for optical solutions

We now synchronize with OptiTrack Motive timecode, and we’ve made it easier to use our solution with Vicon Shogun without using Python.

Automated jam sync

Less fiddley jam syncing!

No more unplugging cables: Hand Engine will manage jam syncing for you.

Use Xsens MVN across your network

Improve stability with CPU load spread across your network

We’ve added the ability to send Hand Engine data over your network to a computer running Xsens MVN Animate Pro or Plus, reducing the load on a single machine.

Adjustable FBX frame rates

Adjustable framerates when recording to FBX

We’ve added the ability to record FBX files using industry-standard framerates  to match your target platform.

IMPORTANT: you must update Glove and Dongle firmware to the latest versions in order to use Hand Engine 1.2. You can find the latest installers and firmware updates on your account dashboard.

Detailed release notes

Major improvements and features

  • Streaming Hand Engine data over the network to a computer running MVN Animate Pro or Plus (via UDP). User can set the IP address of the computer running MVN in Hand Engine.
  • New Express calibration – new model with improved performance, especially in regard to thumb and splay movement. 
  • Simplified and expanded timecode synchronization for optical systems (Vicon Shogun and OptiTrack Motive).
  • Improved timecode synchronization via wireless jam sync. Gloves can be synced from within Hand Engine. Reduces drift and the need for mechanical devices like UltraSync One to be plugged into the glove.
  • FBX recording changes: adjustable frame rates that conform with industry standards.

Minor changes

  • Remapping: ability to set binding pose of target asset to L-Pose or Paddle Pose. Previously target asset had to be in L-Pose.
  • Fix to align keys with frames (bug fix).

Stability fixes

  • Crash during trigger of multiple devices resolved (bug fix).
  • How to Guides link in Hand Engine updated to new Knowledge Base.

Known issues

  • Loading a session doesn’t load user changes to Xsens Streaming IP Address, Remapping settings.
  • UI: Multicast/Unicast dropdown menu is misaligned on different sized monitors.
  • When loading a Saved Session the captured poses for the profile loaded is missing. They reappear if you change between profiles.

Got an idea?

What features would you like to see added to our product Roadmap? Let us know in the comments.

StretchSense Launcher seen over the shoulder on a laptop.

StretchSense launcher announced

Keeping on top of the updates can be a bit tedious, which is why we’re developing a new Launcher feature for Hand Engine.

The Launcher will enable to you to:

  • You can launch any version of Hand Engine you have installed 
  • Receive notifications when a new version is available
  • Update firmware with a few button clicks
  • See the status of your connected devices including battery status

Get access to the beta release

The official release of the Launcher is coming up, but if you’re a StretchSense user and would like to take advantage of the Launcher now, get in touch so you can try the beta release.

Learn more about the Launcher and how it is going to simplify your workflow.

Hand Engine Pose Background

Hand Engine v1.1.2 now available

Version 1.1.2 of our Hand Engine software package was released today.

In this minor update:

  • A bug affecting group calibration has been resolved
  • The timecode of FBX files from Hand Engine now start at 00:00:00 when loaded into Maya or MotionBuilder
  • You can now undo during pose creation with the conventional Ctrl+Z key combination

StretchSense users can access the  Hand Engine 1.1.2 installation file from the Downloads page of the account section.

As always, our helpful support team is on hand should you have any questions. 

Hand Engine 1.1.1 close up

Hand Engine 1.1.1 release puts user experience first

Today’s release includes new features and UI enhancements designed to make the user experience smoother and more intuitive for both new and experienced users of Hand Engine.

For example, Hand Engine now includes a Restore Session function, which is useful when you want to return to where you were during your last session, and will come to your rescue should the app close unexpectedly.

Our last update included a preview of our Express Calibration feature, which allows you to calibrate our gloves to a user’s hands in seconds. While still a preview feature, we have made it even simpler to get started and to tailor your performance by hitting the poses you care about. Each actor Profile can now use Express Calibration and calibrations can be stored for reuse. 

Hybrid-Express

Perhaps one of the more exciting developments in version 1.1.1 is the ability to use Hybrid Mode with Express Calibration.

Hybrid Mode is a pose detection feature that makes it possible to layer key pretrained, artistic poses over the top of your Express Calibration and blend smoothly between them.

A More Intuitive UI

User Interface updates in this release have been made in response to both customer feedback and an expert UX review.

We’ve made Hand Engine easier to use through better labeling, the addition of tooltips that appear on mouse hover, and placing some components in more intuitive locations.

The UI maintains its familiar look and feel, but users will find it easier to navigate than previously.

Here is the full list of updates and features added in Hand Engine 1.1.1:

Features

  • Restore session – Hand Engine automatically saves the session when it closes. The session can be restored on the next restart (File → Restore Session). It will always restore the last session
  • Improved Express Calibration (Beta preview)
    • Each Profile can use Express Calibration
    • Express Calibration can be saved to a Profile and accessed as required – no need to recalibrate
  • Hybrid pose detection mode can be run in combination with Express Calibration. See our Knowledge Base page: How to Setup Express Calibration Mode in Hand Engine 1.1.1
  • Playback speed can be controlled
    • In File mode file can be played back at different speeds (1x, 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x)
    • Limitation: speed can’t be changed during playback
  • Toggle to swap hand engine hands around in viewport (Settings->Preferences)
  • Added auto-setup: on selecting profile it will reinitialize last trained mode and turn preview on
  • It’s no longer required to manually turn on preview as it will automatically be turned on after training a glove
  • Odd numbers of devices by default set to left hand, even numbers of devices by default set to right hand by default. This is customizable. 
  • Capture Pose will check if preview is turned on to prevent user error
  • Added network source option of UDP data stream – in addition to TCP data stream

UI Changes

  • Capture button renamed to “Capture Pose” instead of “Calibrate”
  • Added tooltips to key components/ UI elements in HE
  • Added StretchSense favicon to browser tab to make it easier to recognize the Hand Engine tab
  • Added Export FBX button to File tab (removed Export tab)
    • Selected recording file can be exported from the same tab
  • Renamed “Auto Capture” to “Pose Calibration Timer”
  • Renamed “Auto Mode” → “Auto Advance Pose”
  • New flashing red icon to show when a recording is active (from within or outside HE)
  • Usability improved with pose library and file import / export buttons repositioned

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed keyframe generation in FBX to improve stability of exported FBX files
  • Load session file also restores remapping/retargeting of FBX (customer asset) files
  • Fixes to manage glove timecode packet to make it more stable
  • Uninstalling Hand Engine will also deactivate the license (no need for manual intervention)
  • Fixed delay in Hand Engine recording if recording is triggered from MotionBuilder
  • Prevent selection of the same profile for different devices when in group calibration. This will prevent duplicate poses added to the same profile.
  • Fixed calculation for computing remapping offsets for metacarpal joints

Known Issues

  • Express Calibration is not suitable for calibrating groups. Groups must either use Performance Calibration (greater accuracy, up to 6 gloves at once,15-20 min) or individually use Express Calibration (15sec per glove)

StretchSense launches Hand Engine 1.1.0 with FBX export and express calibration

StretchSense has today released an update to Hand Engine that provides a host of new features for animators and studios, as well as performance enhancements.

StretchSense CTO Todd Gisby comments: “We’re really determined to push the limits on what Hand Engine and our gloves can do. This update is a reflection of that drive and we’re excited to get this out to our users”.

Save as FBX

Easily export your hand mocap data to any software application that imports an FBX file, including Unreal Engine, Unity, Maya, Blender, Houdini, MotionBuilder and more…

The ability to export to FBX is our most requested feature – if you have been waiting for it, login to your account to download the latest version of Hand Engine now.

Express calibration (preview)

Imagine your performers completing industry-leading hand motion capture calibration in seconds — it is now possible.

Our software development team has developed a database of hand data to “give the glove a soul”. As we add more hand data to the database the accuracy of calibrations will get better and better.

Even though it’s still in beta, early feedback from users suggests that Express calibration is a hotly anticipated feature, which is why we’ve included it as a preview in Hand Engine 1.1.0. 

Vicon timecode integration

Hand Engine 1.1.0 can now listen directly to Vicon timecode, making it easier than ever to sync our hand mocap solution to body data captured with a Vicon system.

Optimized: 80% reduction in CPU load

New features are great but one of the basics that should always be in focus is the continuous improvement of the core system.

The new release has been optimized to reduce CPU load on your machine, meaning you can allocate more resources to all those CPU-hungry 3D applications. 

More ways to get live data into Hand Engine

The latest release of Hand Engine (1.1.0) includes a new network input stream, which means you can now stream data from the glove into Hand Engine across your network. This allows you to capture data from the glove in one location, and process it in another.

“Fix it in Pre”

Previously art directors and animators had to take what they got when it came to motion capture data. Our hand mocap solution changed that by using machine learning to detect when a performer’s hand got into proximity of a preset pose – allowing perfect poses to be captured during a live performance.

A major change included in the latest release of Hand Engine (1.1.0) is something we call “Hybrid Mode”. Capture smooth continuous hand motion then hit reliable, stable poses in sync with your performer when you need it.

Add new poses or refine existing poses as you go to bring art direction in at the very start of your project rather than waiting to “do it in post”.

Hand Engine hand mocap software by StretchSense.

What’s new in the Hand Engine v1.1.0 experimental release?

Release date: 12 February 2021

Hand Engine V1.1.0 experimental release is now available and it comes with a number of exciting new features and enhancements.

The feature garnering the most attention in the mocap community is Express Mode, which allows users to set up the glove in a matter of seconds.

“All you do is put our glove on and wiggle your fingers through their range of motion. Hand Engine will do all of the calibration work,” says StretchSense CTO Todd Gisby.

“This is just the beginning. As the underlying model expands and becomes more sophisticated, Express Mode is just going to continually get better. We won’t stop until our gloves work perfectly on every hand with no setup required.”

This is a huge step forward towards hi-fidelity hand capture that takes seconds to set up, even for someone who has never used our gloves before.

Vicon, FBX, improved CPU usage…

The software team hasn’t just settled on developing Express Mode. Here are some of the great features bundled into this release:

  • Vicon integration: synchronize your hand capture with timecode from your Vicon system using Vicon Datastream
  • Save to FBX: Automatically save directly to FBX files whenever you record a take in Hand Engine
  • Improved Hybrid Mode: define key artistic poses you want to hit with rock-solid stability and then use Blend Mode for a natural, fluid motion for everything in between
  • No more overclocking: we’ve reduced the CPU resources required at runtime by Hand Engine by 80%
  • Now with Network Input: Connect your gloves to your performer’s on-body PC using a lightweight app that broadcasts the glove data over your wireless network to a PC running Hand Engine on side of the stage

How to access it

Current users of Hand Engine can find the experimental release in the Software licenses section of their StretchSense account.

For everyone else, get in touch if you want to see a live demo or arrange for a hands-on trial, just get in quick!

As with every experimental build there may be some bugs, but we have already squashed the big ones.

We are keen for you to start using RC2 and look forward to your feedback.

Thumbs up hand pose in Hand

The Hand Engine Experimental Release Program

We are excited to announce that future experimental releases of Hand Engine will be available to all our users.

These release candidates will incorporate new features that will make a significant improvement to overall user experience, and current Hand Engine users will be granted early access so they get to have their say about it’s final implementation.

“We want to get them into users’ hands as early as possible in order to get their feedback,” says StretchSense CTO Todd Gisby.

“There may still be a few bugs, but we’ve set it up so you can run a release candidate on the same machine as the stable version and use the same license key — just don’t try and run both at the same time!”

The first release candidate (v1.1.0-RC1) will be available soon, complete with the following features:

  • Record directly to FBX in Hand Engine.
  • Introducing Hybrid Pose/Blend Mode:
    Select which of your calibration poses are used for Pose Detection Mode, Blend Mode, or both so you can nail the perfect key frame for critical hand poses while retaining smooth, high fidelity hand animation for everything else. Read more about Hybrid Mode.

For release notifications keep an eye on our social media (links in footer) or sign up to our newsletter.

Current Hand Engine user? Want to try a Release Candidate? Get in touch with us.

Hand Engine Hybrid

New Hand Engine “Hybrid Mode”

StretchSense’s Hand Engine will soon feature Hybrid Mode, which the StretchSense CTO Todd Gisby calls, “the best of both worlds”.

Hybrid Mode combines the two existing modes in Hand Engine — Pose Detection and Blend — in a predetermined way to get smooth transitions between precise hand poses.

Both modes use the same underlying data but in very different ways.

Pose Detection Mode enables you to output a perfect keyframe based on your hand shape. Poses can be ambiguous, which means the hand shape doesn’t need to match the calibration pose. 

With Pose Detection Mode it detects the pose from your library that is the closest in proximity to the pose you make with your hand, avoiding shapes between poses.

Blend Mode uses your calibration poses as landmarks in a continuous motion space and interpolates/blends between poses to give you continuous, natural hand animations.

Additionally, Blend Mode requires unambiguous hand poses, which tend to be at the extremes of range of motion of fingers, e.g. a flat paddle hand or a clenched fist or maximum finger spread. While these are excellent for defining the boundaries of your range of motion, rarely do you want to output one of the specific calibration poses exactly.

How it Works

What if you have a character that has a set of key poses you want to really nail regardless of the physical activity you are engaged in (Pose Detection), but also want smooth, natural movement for everything in between (Blend)?

This is what Hybrid Mode allows you to achieve. You can now choose whether a pose you have calibrated is for Pose Detection Mode, Blend Mode or both.

In essence, this means Hand Engine will output perfect key frames if you are within (user controllable) range of a Pose Detection Mode pose, or output smooth high fidelity finger animation for everything else.

Decoupling Pose Detection Mode and Blend Mode poses in this way means they can work together to produce seamless, high quality hand motion capture.

Access to Hybrid Mode will be released shortly as part of our next experimental release and available on our website for existing Hand Engine users. For release notifications keep an eye on our social media (links in footer) or sign up to our newsletter.

Current Hand Engine user and want to try Hybrid Mode? Get in touch with us.

Hand Engine hand mocap software by StretchSense.

Hand Engine Update v1.0.1

New Hand Engine update available

Released: 9 December 2020

Current Hand Engine users can now download v1.0.1 in the Software Licenses section of their StretchSense account.

Enhancements included in this release:

  • File playback occurs at the same rate as the raw data was recorded
  • Saving your Hand Engine session is now saved in a *.session filetype for easy reference
  • License check-in periods have been extended so your Hardware-locked license or floating license server only needs to check in once every 30 days
  • Dynamic buffer sizing has been implemented in the MotionBuilder, Unreal, Unity, and Maya plugins to ensure efficient allocation and consistent processing of data packets
  • Bug fixes.