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Columbia ­niversity Licenses Strand Simulation Technology

By Columbia Technology Ventures

April 16, 2010



Columbia University announced that it has licensed a computer graphics technology to Adobe Systems that can simulate the natural movement and flexibility of strands as fine as a single human hair.

Strand simulation has numerous applications for graphic design and computer-generated imagery (CGI) used in digital media, movies, and gaming. By simulating the performance of real-world physical art implements, such as bristled paintbrushes, the licensed technology allows design and animation professionals to create more natural images and movements. Artists who previously avoided the computer medium may be encouraged to give it a try since, for the first time, they’ll be able to create and manipulate images with life-like paintbrushes.

The precision of the Columbia simulation technology relies on fast algorithms that can compute the motion of hundreds of strands at interactive rates. The speed and accuracy of the algorithms are due to leading-edge developments in a field of mathematics called "discrete differential geometry." The technology underlies a feature called Bristle Tips, which is available in recently launched Adobe software.

"Our simulation software is ideal to enhance bristle brush tools that creative professionals use in graphic design and video production software," says Eitan Grinspun, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. "We're thrilled that the fruits of our research are playing a role in upcoming CGI movies and next-generation video games."

The simulation technology was developed at GeometricInsight, a new research laboratory at Columbia University, led by Grinspun. The group's research is focused exclusively on creating and evaluating novel physical simulation technologies, many of which will have applications in the entertainment and media industries. The close collaboration with Adobe's engineering team that produced the Bristle Tips feature is a success that Grinspun aims to replicate and build upon.

"With the formation of GeometricInsight, we now have a single nexus for transferring our best physical simulation technologies to industry," says Calvin Chu from Columbia Technology Ventures, the university's technology licensing office. "The strand simulation technology is just one of several in our pipeline that we hope to make available in the near future."

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