Real-time motion capture plays a very important role in various applications, such as 3D interface for virtual reality systems, digital puppetry, and real-time character animation. In this paper we challenge the problem of estimating and recognizing the motion of articulated objects using the optical motion capture technique. In addition, we present an effective method to control the articulated human figure in realtime. The heart of this problem is the estimation of 3D motion and posture of an articulated, volumetric object using feature points from a sequence of multiple perspective views. Under some moderate assumptions such as smooth motion and known initial posture, we develop a model-based technique for the recovery of the 3D location and motion of a rigid object using a variation of Kalman filter. The posture of the 3D volumetric model is updated by the 2D image flow of the feature points for all views. Two novel, concepts - the hierarchical Kalman filter (HKF) and the adaptive hierarchical structure (AHS) incorporating the kinematic properties of the articulated object - are proposed to extend our formulation from the rigid object to the articulated one. Our formulation also allows us to avoid two classic problems in 3D tracking: the multi-view correspondence problem, and the occlusion problem. By adding more cameras and placing them appropriately, our approach can deal with. the motion of the object in a very wide area. Furthermore, multiple objects can be handled by managing multiple AHSs and processing multiple HKFs. We show the validity of our approach using the synthetic data acquired simultaneously from the multiple virtual camera in a virtual environment (VE) and real data derived from a moving light display with walking motion. The results confirm that. the model-based algorithm works well on the tracking of multiple rigid objects. (C) 1997 Academic Press Limited.