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Physics Brings Realism to Virtual Reality

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The latest multi-core processors and smart software are enabling physicists and engineers to simulate the real world with unprecedented accuracy to create more realistic virtual worlds. Experts say the technologies behind these advanced simulations may even be used to create Matrix-like virtual worlds that are indistinguishable from the real world within only a few years.

A centuries old physics technique called ray tracing, which calculates how rays of light behave in different environments, is receiving renewed attention. "We shoot a bunch of rays at every pixel in the scene and determine what color it should appear by considering what type of surface it hits," says Intel labs researcher Daniel Pohl.

Meanwhile, increased computing power is making it feasible to simulate physical processes from a small scale outwards, instead of trying to simulate the overall effect. The result is more realistic items, such as virtual fabrics, which are generated by simulating individual yarns and combining them together to create a larger object, producing virtual objects such as socks and scarves that stretch and deform more realistically.

Improving physical processes simulations also can improve sound effects. Cornell University researchers have simulated the tiny bubbles, specifically how they vibrate and burst to make noise, which are responsible for the distinctive sounds that water makes.

View a video on physics' impact on virtual representations.

From New Scientist
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