PORTLAND, Ore.—The virtual world is being brought to life by reverse engineering the rendering operation that draws on-screen characters in video games and other software animations. Harvard University researchers will describe a patented new algorithm that uses three-dimensional printers to create personalized action figures from animations at next week's Siggraph 2012 show in Los Angeles.
Software animations create both realistic and fanciful characters, but their makeup and capabilities need not match those that are possible in the real world. Harvard's software, however, translates the primary characteristics of the on-screen characters into articulated components that together realize a figurine that can be created by a 3-D printer.
By observing the on-screen appearance and actions performed by the character, the Harvard algorithm determines the ideal locations for the character's joints—either ball-in-socket or hinged—then optimizes their size and location using the physics of the real 3-D world. Once the reverse rendering operation is complete, a detailed file is sent to a 3-D printer, which creates a completely assembled version of the action figure. The 3-D animation character (left) was imaged with a 3-D printer (right) with Harvard software.
Photo Credit: Moritz Bächer/Harvard