When walking together as a group, people can tend to fall into step with each other so that their movements become synchronised. While this sounds trivial, it can cause big problems for structural engineers designing bridges and stadiums, where synchronised movements interact with the structure causing excess vibration or sway (the Millennium Bridge being a famous example). With designs becoming more complex and lightweight, modern structures are potentially more sensitive to human interaction effects. Therefore, we wish to understand the conditions under which movement synchrony occurs within groups and the level of synchrony within the movements.
Dr Mark Elliott (pictured right), from the School of Psychology is investigating group synchrony in collaboration with the Vibration Engineering Research Group at Sheffield University and has recently received £5k under the EPSRC Equipment Sharing scheme to access facilities at the University of Worcester’s Motion Performance Centre. The facilities include a very large motion capture lab with a floor space of over 200m2 and a 15 camera 3D motion capture system that will allow groups of people to walk freely whilst accurately capturing the timing and position of their movements. Having access to these facilities will allow us to achieve natural walking scenarios with groups of 3-4 people. This is something that would not be achievable in smaller labs. The experiments will look at different group formations and whether talking increases the likelihood of the group walking in step together.