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General Overview. General Overview. Why physics ?. Because most things in our everyday environment can be described by physics –and a common ambition in a simulation is to describe an environment Physical simulations capture complexity Complex behavior emerges from simulation.

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General Overview

Why physics ?

  • Because most things in our everyday

  • environment can be described by physics

  • –and a common ambition in a simulation

  • is to describe an environment

  • Physical simulations capture complexity

  • Complex behavior emerges from simulation

General Overview

Luxo Jr. by John Lasseter, Pixar 1987

  • Keyframed realistic animation with no

    physical simulation.

  • Still, physics does the trick…

  • High level motion control: Jump from A to B

  • Luxo Jr. made people start thinking about physics . . .

General Overview

Physics is . . .

  • Systematic

  • Scalable

  • Consequent

  • Controllable

  • Extensible

  • General

Therefore library software and expertise can evolve !

General Overview

Applying Physics can create . . .

  • Dynamics (Newton’s Laws)

  • Rigid Body Dynamics, Interaction, Collisions

  • Mechanics of Materials

  • Fluids, water (water, yacht)

  • Gases, smoke, clouds (smoke, train, interactive, clouds)

  • Plasmas, fire, lightning, sparks (candle)

  • Particles (special effects, explosions, fountain, hair, fur)

  • Fields

  • Body interaction

  • Collective phenomena, complex systems, emergence, …

  • Audio – wave tracing, acoustics, damping, …

  • Light – optics, ray tracing, …

  • Effectors and sensors – display and interaction

In the Beginning . . .

  • Computers were hulking Goliaths locked in air-conditioned

  • rooms.

  • But a young electrical engineer and former naval radar

  • technician named Douglas Engelbart viewed them differently.

  • Engelbart envisioned them as tools for digital display.

  • He knew from his days with radar that

  • any digital information could be viewed

  • on a screen. Why not, he then reasoned,

  • connect the computer to a screen and

  • use both to solve problems?

In the Beginning . . .

  • Engelbart's ideas were dismissed, but by the early 1960s other

  • people were thinking the same way.

  • Moreover, the time was right for his vision of computing.

  • Communications technology was intersecting with computing

  • and graphics technology.

  • This synergy yielded more user-friendly

  • computers, which laid the groundwork for

  • personal computers, computer graphics,

  • and later simulations.

In the Beginning . . .

Pivotal Points in History . . .

  • Fear of nuclear attack prompted the U.S. military to commission a new radar system that would process large amounts of information and immediately display it in a form that humans could readily understand. The resulting radar defense system was the first "real time," or instantaneous, simulation of data.

  • Aircraft designers began experimenting with ways for computers to graphically display, or model, air flow data.

  • Computer experts began restructuring computers so they would display these models as well as compute them. The designers' work paved the way for scientific visualization, an advanced form of computer modeling that expresses multiple sets of data as images and simulations.

In the Beginning . . .

More Pivotal Points in History . . .

  • One of the most influential antecedents of today’s simulations was the flight simulator. Following World War II and through the 1990s, the military and industrial complex pumped millions of dollars into technology to simulate flying airplanes (and later driving tanks and steering ships).

  • By the 1970s, computer-generated graphics

  • had replaced videos and models. These

  • flight simulations were operating in

  • real time, though the graphics were

  • primitive. By the early 1980s, better

  • software, hardware, and motion-control

  • platforms enabled pilots to navigate

  • through highly detailed virtual worlds.

In the Beginning . . .

Even More Pivotal Points History . . .

  • Of course, the "military-industrial complex" was not the only entity interested in computer graphics.

  • A natural consumer of computer graphics was the entertainment industry, which, like the military and industry, was the source of many valuable spin-offs in virtual reality.

  • By the 1970s, some of Hollywood's most dazzling special effects were computer-generated, such as the battle scenes in the big-budget, blockbuster science fiction movie Star Wars, which was released in 1976. Later came such movies as Terminator and Jurassic Park. In the early 1980s, the video game business boomed.

Current Climate

  • Physics-based simulation is the art of reducing algorithmic complexity to achieve usable results with as little computation as possible.

  • Current visualizations usually incorporate both scientific simulations based on research data and parametric rule-sets that augment the data and save time.

  • State of the art simulation technology in this field is most often proprietary and created by specialized teams (scientists, engineers, artists, specialists) when the need for them arises.

  • A large amount of cooperation between research institutions, productions houses, and software developers is needed and planning for computational demands is highly coordinated.

Current Climate

Some General Approaches Used:

  • System Modeling (pre-computed) – Simulation based on equations (x,y,z,t) that are computed for individual data points (the more the better).

  • Parametric Rule-Sets (pre-computed) – Integrates pre-computed systems with other simulations (from artists or augmented and reduced systems) based on defined parameters.

  • Selective Data Plotting (real-time) – Compute only the data points you need to get an accurate representation of your system. Example: Ray-casting

  • Monte Carlo Simulation (depends on application) – Compute complex systems using algorithms with reduced complexity by guessing (using known boundaries).

Current Climate

Areas Where Simulations Are Used in the Industry:

  • Newtonian Physics - Rigid Body Kinetics, Object Collisions, etc.

  • Realistic Human Movement – Muscle Behavior, Skeleton Behavior, etc.

  • Volumetric Rendering – Natural Phenomenon (fire, smoke, clouds, fluids, solid bodies)

  • Large-Scale Simulations – Flocking, Group Behavior, and Character Interaction

Newtonian Physics

  • Newest

  • implementation

  • allows user control

  • over bodies.

  • Basic laws of Newtonian physics are readily defined

  • (ex: a(t) = v’(t) = s’’(t)).

  • Uses algorithms with interpolate the appropriate physical simulation based on user-defined actions (similar to key-framing).

  • Current hurdles involve number of bodies, which can interact in real-time, and how many parameters are checked for each instance of time.

  • Research at Carnegie Mellon University and implementation using controller packages like Maya, Houdini, and Softimage.

Realistic Human Movement

  • A new technique is being developed at the University of Toronto that creates a composable controller system for human movement.

  • It links motor abilities of characters to physics-based controllers.

  • This is different from traditional character animation because character responds to interactions based on laws of physics.

  • This is done through the groups of linked controllers that contain physical parameters.

Volumetric Rendering

  • This technique has been too computationally intensive (usually N^3 complexity) in the past.

  • In the last couple of years new technologies and techniques have arisen to reduce the complexity.

  • Ray-casting – This method computes only the portions of the volume that are seen given the current projection.

  • Volumetric models of systems are

  • important because they are

  • easily integrated with both

  • pre-computed system model data

  • and parametric rule-sets to create

  • realistic behavior.

Volumetric Technologies

  • Arete Digital Nature tools used in Cinema. Creates volumetric fluids, clouds, etc.

  • Real-time volumetric renderings can still not be computed accurately on standard computer hardware without an additional accelerator.

  • Mitsubishi Electronics RTViz group produced to VolumePro 500 and VolumePro 1000 to do ray-casting in real-time.

  • Uses a large frame buffer and specialized hardware

  • to compute 2563 individual volumes at 30 fps.

  • Nvidia developed a technology (VTC) that

  • compresses 3D textures (representing slices of a

  • volumetric object).

Large Scale Simulation

Particles and Flocking:

  • Uses a large number of discrete objects (with physical parameters and or simulation data attached) to model systems in which many bodies are interacting non-uniformly.

  • Examples are crowds, swarms, and flocks, which could represent characters or environmental phenomenon.

  • Large-scale simulations are usually coupled with other technologies such a volumetric rendering and Newtonian physics.

  • Weta’s Massive is a very advanced, state of the art implementation of large-scale simulation.

Current Feats

LOTRTwo Towers:

  • Weta used its proprietary software

  • Massive for large-scale simulation.

  • It integrated Massive with its own

  • physics-based muscle-system using

  • Maya to create effects that would take

  • 460 years to be rendered on a home PC.

  • Rendering and simulation took 10 months and was done using about 1000 IBM and SGI workstations.

  • Their own rendering and shading program Grunt was used with Massive to aid in simulating cloth and hair on individual characters in the crowd.

Recent Feats

A Perfect Storm:

  • First film where ILM feels they created realistic fluid dynamics.

  • Until recently, fluid flow simulations could only be run with 80-100 data points. In “A Perfect Storm” simulations of several different oceans were run in 3D using a much larger data set and various parameters until they looked right.

  • Several simulation technologies went into recreating the ocean.

Simulation for the Artist

Ability to manipulate/distort

physics of their digital environment

Game Designer Perspective:

  • Games allow Player to express himself

  • Realism is not necessarily the goal for games

  • Simulated World that has “Consistently”

Simulation for the Artist

Grenade example: grenade bounces realistically

Simulation for the Artist

Pro’s of digital simulation:

  • Time Saved & Reduced costs

  • Emergence – new strategies and

  • game play by user

  • Simulated World that has “Consistency”

  • New and more genres of games created

Simulation for the Artist

Con’s of digital simulation:

  • Unexpected methods of game play by player

  • Being too complex or real for the game

  • More user feedback is required

  • Hardware limitations reduces use or ability

  • Deeper simulation does not mean more fun.

  • Maybe just more interesting

Simulation for the Artist

Thief by Looking Glass Studios:

Deeper awareness

model with

complex sound

propagation and

lighting used for

stimuli of


Simulation for the Artist

Thief by Looking Glass Studios:

Sound simulated

to bounce off

surfaces and

materials with

varied intensity

and reverb.

Simulation for the Artist

Thief by Looking Glass Studios:

Designers added a “light gem” feedback device

To help the player utilize environments effectively

Simulation for the Artist

Simulation to the non-Game Artist:

3D programs like Maya 3D

incorporate more simulation

for manipulating and controlling physics in 3D.

Simulation for the Artist

Simulation to the non-Game Artist:

KPT makes Adobe Photoshop plug-ins

utilize 3D physics simulation of light &

movement upon 2D surfaces.






Goo plug-in


What Simulation means to the Public

What the General Public will see:

  • Simulation-based game design produce

  • more variable player driven game play

  • More dynamic effects in movies produced with digital tools

Movie Industry Example:



to create cycles

to be used with

AI and physics to

simulate mass


Future of Virtual

Simulation and Visualization

Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

  • Current problems that keep our technology from advancing

  • Overcoming technological barriers and what to expect from future simulation

    • Real-time simulation and visualization

  • Advancements in representing human figures in motion

    • Realistic walking movement

    • Physics-based human simulation for virtual prototyping

      • Human populations in simulations

  • Technology that can be used for motion planning in robots

  • Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    • Problems that keep our

    • Simulation technology from advancing

    • Today’s simulations require intense computational resources

    • Most simulations generate gigabytes to terabytes of data, whether it is a scientific application or an artistic application such as movie effects

    • This Data requires not only huge amounts of storage space but also the computer processing power to handle it.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Example of a movie simulation: Water

    When simulating water, dynamics and large scale 3D grids are used. Each point on the grid can generate thousands to millions of particles that are tracked over time.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Example of a movie simulation: Water

    The amount of data generated is so immense that in many cases artists must manually add in details because the movie production can not afford so much simulation time.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    • Overcoming technological barriers and what to expect from future simulation

    • As computers get faster and storage space becomes cheaper, more complex and realistic visualizations are possible

    • Real time visualization will revolutionize the world of simulation.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    • Real time means that the graphical outcome of a simulation will be available as the computer works through the simulation.

    • What does this mean for artists?

    • Artists will be able to create very complex visuals without waiting to see the final product. Changes will be possible without the fear of long rendering times.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    • What does this mean for scientists?

    • Scientists will be able to simultaneously get data from the simulation while analyzing the computer visualization.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    • How far have we come with real time?

    • Pixar’s first film, “Luxo, Jr.” was made almost 17 years ago. The short film was rendered on a Cray supercomputer that took 75 hours per second of animation.

    • Future animated

    • films could be done entirely

    • on desktop machines as

    • hardware advances.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Advancements in representing human figures in motion

    Research is being done to develop systems to more realistically display human movement such as walking. Today’s systems pass for situations not intended to be “realistic” but when actual human-like figures are represented, we can notice that there is something not right.

    Physics are what control human movement. The combination of physics and other techniques such as motion capturing can yield very realistic human motion. There is still a lot to hope for.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Final Fantasy uses CG to represent Humans

    Square’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within raised the bar for technical achievement as it made digital actors look realistic.

    Characters moved almost too gracefully as real humans tend to be somewhat more jerky and unpredictable. We can expect to see much more realistic movement in future CG movies.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Future Applications of Realistic Human Motion

    Physics-based Human Simulation

    for Virtual Prototyping

    Boston Dynamics has been developing

    a landmark 3D software product

    for real time simulations called

    DI-Guy. This software adds artificial

    human life to simulations such as

    virtual battlefields.

    Future of Virtual Simulation and Visualization

    Future Applications of Realistic Human Motion

    Technology for Virtual Humans could provide potential for humanoid robots.

    Robots use complex physics to perform

    simple motion. In the next 10 years,

    Humanoid robots could be a common

    sight. The development of these new

    robots could be furthered by the same

    research done to represent human

    movement graphically.