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Computer Scientists Find Way to Make All That Glitters More Realistic in Computer Graphics

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Researchers used their method to model the glittery shell of this CGI snail.

An algorithm developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego promises to make the surfaces of a wide range of materials appear more realistic.

Credit: University of California, San Diego

An algorithm developed by University of California, San Diego professor Ravi Ramamoorthi and colleagues promises to make the surfaces of a wide range of materials look a lot more realistic.

Ramamoorthi says the method improves how computer graphics software reproduces the way light interacts with extremely small details, called glints, on the surface of materials, including metallic car paints, metal finishes for electronics, and injection-molded plastic finishes.

The research team says the approach is 100 times faster than the current state of the art.

The researchers' solution was to break down each pixel of an uneven, intricate surface into pieces covered by thousands of microfacets--light-reflecting points smaller than a pixel.

Ramamoorthi says the algorithm's speed is based on its ability to approximate this normal distribution at each surface location, called a "position-normal distribution."

The method requires minimal computational resources and can be used in animations, while the team notes current methods can only reproduce these glints in stills.

The researchers will present the work this week at the ACM SIGGRAPH 2016 conference in Anaheim, CA.

From University of California, San Diego
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