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Definition

locomotion

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Locomotion is directional movement that enables someone or something to move from one location to another. The word derives from the Latin words locō (place) and mōtiō (to move).

The study of locomotion informs many areas of science, medicine and technology. The mechanisms of locomotion may be applied in biomimetics (biomimicry), the development of human-made processes, substances, devices or systems that imitate nature. In robotics, for example, designers imitate human movement to create life-like androids.

Locomotion is also an important area of endeavor in video game art and design and virtual reality (VR). Creating realistic locomotion for digital content requires an understanding of how that movement is accomplished and what it looks like in the physical world. In VR gaming, locomotion usually refers to systems that allow the user to navigate through the virtual environment.

Locomotion is generally categorized according to one of four types of environment: terrestrial (on the earth), aerial (in the air), aquatic (in the water) or fossorial (in the earth). Types of animal locomotion include walking, running, crawling, rolling, flying, climbing, swimming, skipping and jumping.

The British photographer Eadweard Muybridge published an 11-volume work, Animal Locomotion, in 1887. Muybridge is best known today for his sequence of photographs of a racehorse in motion. This series proved for the first time that at top speed all four of a horse’s feet leave the ground. The photographer also developed the zoopraxiscope, a primitive “motion picture” device that worked by showing a sequence of still photographs in rapid succession.

This was last updated in May 2018

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