Post Aug. 26
You can find 3D graphics in everything from video games to movies, to architectural renderings. While graphics improve by long strides every year, they are always restricted by the use of polygons. For example, let’s use triangle polygons to build a rock. After booting up our favorite 3D graphics program, we create a rock that looks pretty good. Unfortunately this rock is going to be used for a game and we are way over our polygon count. The only solution is to remove some polygons, which distorts the smoothness of the rock.
Why the low polygon count rules? This has to do with the amount of data your computer can process and render. Movies can afford to use high polygon models because they have hours and hours to render a frame. In a game, 60 frames need to be rendered a second. Game models get better each year because new computers come out every year with more power. This system restricts what game developers can do. The companies want to be able to sell their game to as many people as possible, so games are scaled back to allow more people to run them.
A company named Euclideon thinks they may have the answer to this problem. Riding on a 2 million dollar grant from the Australian Government, they are working on a product known as Unlimited Detail Graphics. Without getting too technical yet, the idea is to use virtual “atoms” instead of polygons to render objects. A computer can render the location of these atoms much quicker than it can render polygons.
Technically, the Unlimited Detail system uses point-cloud construction to render the objects. A face of an object is made of hundreds or even thousands of these points. This allows for very realistic curves and smooth surfaces that polygons cannot match. The problem is with tons of points in an environment, the issue of computing power still occurs. The team says they have found a solution by using a search engine style technique to render only visible points.
The company has created tools allowing one to import a high quality image or 3D model into the point-cloud system. In my opinion this is the first step in adoption. Graphic designers and modelers are not going to be cool with having to learn a new 3D system. But if they can use their current program and import, I don’t see a problem occurring. Also, the modelers will no longer have a polygon limit, so they can build the models they really want to build.
If this technology can be developed and adopted into the game and movie industry, I see a whole new world of computer generated environments. A huge leap in graphics quality is definitely possible. Don’t expect this technology anytime soon though. There is still a ton of work and research to be completed on the system. Out of all the new technologies in development for graphics, Unlimited Detail seems to be the best one.