Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Wolfram Research at SIGGRAPH 2009

Are you a die-hard video gamer? Can you spend hours at a time sacrificing sleep to play your favorite real-time action console game? Or maybe you find yourself captivated by the amazing animation found in movies such as Pixar’s latest release, Up. Whatever your form of diversion, have you ever stopped to wonder what makes 3D games so realistic or how Pixar managed to animate thousands of balloons lifting Carl’s house? We at Wolfram Research have the inside scoop—it’s all about the math and physics.

Last month, I had the pleasure of talking to many creative and technical folks in the broad field of computer graphics who visited the Wolfram Research booth at SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The SIGGRAPH conference is sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and its attendees include a diverse group of researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, scientists, and other professionals who share an interest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Wolfram is by no means a newcomer to this audience, as Mathematica 1.0 was on display at the Apple Computer booth during SIGGRAPH 1988. Exponential gains in processing power since then have enabled both programmers and artists to take advantage of state-of-the-art software tools for creating and rendering graphics.

This year at SIGGRAPH, we showed how Mathematica, with its historical strength in symbolic manipulation and advances in Version 6 and Version 7, represents the intersection of mathematics and visual arts. Long accepted as the computational language of mathematicians and physicists, Mathematica has been quietly gaining adoption among game programmers, animators, special effects experts and artists for its high-precision numerics, advanced 2D and 3D graphics primitives, artistic color schemes, and built-in geometric art entities. For example, some of the leading game developers, such as Electronic Arts and Bungie, are applying spherical harmonic functions to calculate lighting on 3D models.

Nodal Domains of Spherical Harmonics

Pixelux Entertainment has used Mathematica to develop the complex finite element models used in their Digital Molecular Matter (DMM) physics-simulation engine. Mathematica is easily used to simulate behaviors such as deformation, bending, flexing, and fracture, each a topic of many a SIGGRAPH presentation or paper.

Game programmers and other graphics experts also find Mathematica‘s high-level language ideal for rapid prototyping of new graphics algorithms.

In the realm of visual arts we had many booth visitors who saw firsthand how Mathematica can generate original algorithmic art, which can be manipulated in real time to easily explore new possibilities. You can see more at the Wolfram Demonstrations Project and the Mathematica Graphics Gallery.

For learning more about Mathematica and its applications for the visual arts, a good place to start is our Game Design, Special Effects, and Generative Arts solution page. Find out how much Mathematica can do for you, and let us know what you create with it. We look forward to seeing you at future SIGGRAPH meetings.


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