Friday, March 23, 2007

Cool Real-Time Rube Goldberg Device

A physics engine is a type of computer program used in video games and real-time animation to simulate different aspects of real-world physics like gravity, mass, velocity, and friction. A relatively new and fairly powerful physics engine called Bullet is being used in the latest version of Blender and to help promote its capabilities a Rube Goldberg Device contest was recently held with Blender users modeling elaborate machines using Bullet's Rigid Body physics.

You can see all of the entries here, but my favourite by far is the one above by Chris Plush, who's better known in Blender circles as "Blengine". When you watch this remember that the animation is generated in real-time. Don't believe me? If you have Blender on your computer you can download Chris' entry (link goes directly to a .blend file) and see it in real-time for yourself.

Now while this is real-time animation it's really more of a physics simulation than an example of digital puppetry. Although you can do some really basic things using Bullet's Ragdoll Physics, decent character control isn't yet possible with Bullet. It is on the developer's to-do list though and once it's implemented I think all sorts of new and interesting possibilities will open up.

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