Motion capture is mainly based on standard systems using optic, magnetic or sonic technologies. In this paper, the possibility to detect useful human motion based on new techniques using different types of body-fixed sensors is shown. In particular, a combination of accelerometers and angular rate sensors (gyroscopes) showed a promising design for a hybrid kinematic sensor measuring the 2D kinematics of a body segment. These sensors together with a portable datalogger, and using simple biomechanical models, allow capture of outdoor and long-term movements and overcome some limitations of the standard motion capture systems. Significant parameters of body motion, such as nature of motion (postural transitions, trunk rotation, sitting, standing, lying, walking, jumping) and its spatio-temporal features (velocity, displacement, angular rotation, cadence and duration) have been evaluated and compared to the camera-based system. Based on these parameters, the paper outlines the possibility to monitor physical activity and to perform gait analysis in the daily environment, and reviews several clinical investigations related to fall risk in the elderly, quality of life, orthopaedic outcome and sport performance. Taking advantage of all the potential of these body-fixed sensors should be promising for motion capture and particularly in environments not suitable for standard technology such as in any field activity. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.