Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of various motion capture technologies and discuss the methods for handling the captured data in applications related to robotics. Design/methodology/approach – The approach taken in the paper is to compare the features and limitations of motion trackers in common use. After introducing the technology, a summary is given of robotic-related work undertaken with the sensors and the strengths of different approaches in handling the data are discussed. Each comparison is presented in a table. Results from the author’s experimentation with an inertial motion capture system are discussed based on clustering and segmentation techniques. Findings – The trend in methodology is towards stochastic machine learning techniques such as hidden Markov model or Gaussian mixture model, their extensions in hierarchical forms and non-linear dimension reduction. The resulting empirical models tend to handle uncertainty well and are suitable for incrementally updating models. The challenges in human-robot interaction today include expanding upon generalising motions to understand motion planning and decisions and build ultimately context aware systems. Originality/value – Reviews including descriptions of motion trackers and recent methodologies used in analyzing the data they capture are not very common. Some exist, as has been pointed out in the paper, but this review concentrates more on applications in the robotics field. There is value in regularly surveying the research areas considered in this paper due to the rapid progress in sensors and especially data modeling.