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In today’s era of advance computing any 3D objects like food, sceneries speeding cars, missiles and blasts etc can be calculated in a flash. We keep on trying giving realistic looks with lighting and texturing. However, many surfaces still look unnatural. Whether it is skin, stone or wax - on the computer screen, all materials look alike, as if the objects had all been cut out of the same kind of opaque material.

In today’s era of advance computing any 3D objects like food, sceneries speeding cars, missiles and blasts etc can be calculated in a flash. We keep on trying giving realistic looks with lighting and texturing. However, many surfaces still look unnatural. Whether it is skin, stone or wax - on the computer screen, all materials look alike, as if the objects had all been cut out of the same kind of opaque material.

This is about to change: TU Wien (Vienna), the University of Zaragoza and the video game company Activision-Blizzard have developed a new mathematical method which makes surfaces appear much more realistic by taking into account light scattering which occurs below the surface.

Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology and Activision-Blizzard though have developed a means to take this into account, without resulting in a significant performance hit.

Subsurface scattering is exactly what it sounds like; the scattering of light beneath the surface. A classic example would be the red we see if we put our fingers in front of a light. To correctly emulate this in a graphics engine would require calculating the scattering for numerous light rays, which is too much to do in real-time. To simplify the process and make it useable with modern hardware, the researchers developed Separable Subsurface Scattering (SSSS). This method works by simulating a single light ray to create a filter profile. This profile can then be applied to the image repeatedly, and very quickly. On a full HD image, it would add just half a millisecond of time on standard hardware, which makes it viable for video, unlike previous methods that took too much computing time.

As you may be able to guess, Activision-Blizzard is already using SSSS, but it will not be limited to the one company. It is to be presented in the journal, Computer Graphics Forum so every developer will be free to use it.

Source: Vienna University of Technology

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