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Simulation Technology Designed For Hollywood Can Be ­Used as Predictive Tool For ­Understanding Fundamental Engineering


The character Merida in the Pixar animated movie Brave has complex hair.

The software that helps Hollywood render cartoon hair in more lifelike fashion can also help researchers study the fundamental engineering processes of filamentary structures like submarine telecom cables.

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Researchers from Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a new application for software developed to help Hollywood create better virtual hair: studying the fundamental engineering properties of filamentary structures such as oceanic telecommunication cables.

Columbia professor Eitan Grinspun and MIT professor Pedro Reis led a team using Discrete Elastic Rods, simulation software developed by Grinspun for use in animating hair and fur for film and design applications, which has been used to create digital effects for films such as "The Hobbit" and the "Planet of the Apes" series. Grinspun and Reis found the software also could be used to model the behavior of long, filamentary structures such as cables, the mechanical properties of which often can be vexing.

Using Discrete Elastic Rods, the researchers modeled the deployment of oceanic fiber-optic cables and found factors such as the diameter of a spool and the speed at which the cable is deployed can have dramatic effects on how the cable comes to lie on the ground. They say their findings could help improve the deployment of such cables, optimizing them for cost and resilience.

From Columbia News
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