So far 2016 has been a wild ride, but there's one less thing to keep you awake at night, terrified about the future, now that Disney Research has finally found a way to render convincing computer-generated sugar that looks and moves just like the real thing. Phew!
In a paper titled Efficient Rendering of Heterogeneous Poly-Disperse Granular Media, researchers from Disney Research Zurich, ETH Zurich and Dartmouth College outline a new methodology they have created for simulating the appearance and motion of millions of grains — tiny particles that can represent everything from sugar, to salt, to sand — that not only makes them look more realistic, but render faster as well.
Predicting how a handful of billiard balls are going to bounce off each other on a pool table is already a daunting task, so imagine the challenge of calculating how millions and millions of tiny particles are going to interact as they're poured into a bowl.
It's not impossible, it just takes a tremendous amount of time and computing power, which is why this research has the potential to streamline everything from creating visual effects for Hollywood blockbusters, to making the dirt kicked up by a car's tyres look more realistic in a video game.