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Dinosaurs are a source of enormous public interest and as such are useful for fostering greater interest in basic science and technology. With the increasing popularity of dinosaur films that claim to portray realistic dinosaur behaviour, one question that is regularly posed for palaeontologists to answer is how we know that our reconstructions are accurate. Dinosaur locomotion is no exception to this line of questioning and one technique for estimating how dinosaurs may have moved is multibody dynamic simulation (MBDA) of high biofidelity musculoskeletal computer models. Such simulations uses Newton's Law's of Motion to calculate how the different parts of the animals body would have moved depending on the internal forces generated by the muscles and the external forces due to gravity and physical contact with the ground. In this project we designed a system that allowed the user to directly control the muscles forces generated using a Kinect for Xbox One sensor attached to a PC using the Kinect Adaptor for Windows. The Kinect output is used to drive the muscles using customised software and models (Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, Edmontonia, Edmontosaurus, Gorgosaurus) based on our standard GaitSym MBDA system. The initial system was trialled over 7 days at the 2015 Cheltenham Science Festival which showed that the bipedal models were relatively easy to control using human body movements and provided a good vehicle to explain how the physics and physiology behind dinsoaur locomotor reconstruction. The quadrupedal models in their current form are much more difficult to control and further work is needed in this area. The 3D models and software for this project are freely available to download (http://www.animalsimulation.org or DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.2008977) and it is hoped that they will find further uses in areas such as 3D printing for anatomical education and virtual world simulations.
This program and 3D content was created as part of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council's 50th anniversary celebrations. All content is freely available and redistributable subject only to appropriate acknowledgement of the source. All files can be downloaded from www.animalsimulation.org.