Friday, January 22, 2010

Critical Mass Labs Presentation

Together with Ronald Jones from iVEC, I organized a presentation from CMLabs.

Michel Carignan, lead product engineer from CMLabs, discussed the internal structure of Vortex, a real-time physics-based simulation engine with collision detection. Michel covered issues in maintaining interactive performance with complex dynamical systems, and a number of applications from the areas of vehicle simulation, robotics and control.

Details of the constraint solver, collision detection, scene graph interaction, and the interactive editor were covered.

Vortex has a number of interesting features designed to support the simulation of cranes / booms with rigid-body chains for representing wires, etc. The simulation system features a highly accurate and fast solver (iterative/LCP, so I'm not sure what is so special about it..) and most constraint interactions are modeled as simple spring-damper systems. The package does not support continuous collision detection, but has 'Fast' objects, which perform iterative collision detection. A simple way to save computation time, while still achieving the goals of a CCD system, by putting some labor onto the programmer.

Constraints can be 'relaxed' to different degrees, enabling 'wobbly' links, eg: ropes. Each constraint can have a maximum force allowed, and this enables frictional forces with the ground to be simulated in a generic manner.

Vortex also has a few additional novel features including SPH fluids (and normal RB hydrodynamics), simulation of sonar sensors, cameras, etc.

One area where CMLabs seems to have put a lot of effort is the validation of the physics engine - quite an interesting topic, especially in validating motor models, etc.

The key new feature seems to be an interactive editor, however I was disapointed to hear they were building on their own file format and not supporting COLLADA (or let alone any other common 3d package like SolidEdge or Havok's physics format)

In any case it was an interesting talk, but unfortunately I had to leave early. Hopefully I can get the slides.

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