Written by Robert Leitch.
In the past 10 years, motion capture has revolutionized the way movies are made and athletes are trained. The technology utilizes special suits covered in markers that can track the movements of the body, allowing computer-generated imagery (CGI) characters to come to life and athletes to identify potential injuries before they occur. Current motion capture technology must be confined to very small, special studios full of cameras that can see all the markers on the body at all times. YOST Labs in Portsmouth, Ohio, has created sensors to track movement without the need for cameras, cords or studios.
YOST Labs creates sensors that are attached directly to the body, under a person’s clothing. By eliminating the need for motion capture suits, a person’s movement can be tracked in open environments using a radio transmitter. For example, a runner’s stride can be recorded as they run through an open field, rather than in a camera-filled studio on a treadmill. Motion capture actors can be part of larger scenes, instead of being restricted to small, closed sets. This freedom results in more natural movement readings and realistic animation.
Outside of human body tracking, YOST Labs’ technology is used to measure the movement of robots and to navigate drones. The company has developed the world’s fastest drone sensors, which can determine the exact direction a drone is traveling and how fast it is moving almost instantly. The U.S. Navy is the company’s biggest drone customer.
“Our sensors integrate the power of accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers to determine exact motion,” said Greg Merril, CEO of YOST Labs. “By combining all three of these technologies, we can capture and analyze sensor data faster than anyone else.”
Paul Yost, founder of YOST Labs, is a computer scientist who specializes in sensors and robotics. He started the company in 2012 with the goal of making robots’ reaction times faster, and hired Merril in 2015 to lead the company’s growth. Merril has a history of working with startup companies that specialize in sensors and virtual reality. In fact, he founded a virtual reality company that is now listed on the NASDAQ.
YOST Labs received funding from TechGROWTH Ohio, a southeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The funding was used to bring on Merril as CEO and to initiate marketing and sales programs to expand the business. In March 2016, the company announced a Series A investment of $1 million from a group of Ohio-based investors. Merril says the company will use the Series A to bring new products to market and apply for more patents.
“We’re one of the fastest growing technology companies in Ohio,” said Merril. “The support from TechGROWTH and the state of Ohio has been paramount, both in terms of providing capital and in helping connect our business with the marketing resources we’ve needed.”
YOST Labs currently has 16 employees with plans to bring on more people as the company grows. All assembly for the company’s sensors is done in Portsmouth, with manufacturing taking place in Dayton, Ohio. Merril says the company is committed to growing in southeast Ohio.
“It’s gratifying to be building a technology hub in the Ohio Valley,” said Merril. “Shawnee State University is home to one of the top simulation engineering programs in the country, meaning we have access to hiring the best and brightest students right in our backyard. I feel like we have an opportunity to turn the area into the next Silicon Valley.”