Technology advances drive new CG applications
Issue: Volume 38 Issue 1: (Jan/Feb 2015)

Technology advances drive new CG applications

Advances in computer graphics technology can come from the likeliest - and least likely - of industries.

We expect breakthroughs from universities and dedicated labs. We expect them from certain hardware and software companies. The military is known for pushing boundaries in technology, as have the aerospace and automotive sectors with cutting-edge CAD and scanning, among other techniques. The gaming industry played its part in revolutionizing real-time interactivity, and the film industry has been able to create an alternate reality with realistic characters and environments.

Complex R&D by these industries and others have contributed to the advanced graphics and interactivity that is present all around us today. Remember when the advanced water techniques in The Perfect Storm made a huge splash? Or when haptics was first introduced? And when digital design began replacing physical prototypes?

In recent years, CG has been revolutionizing the automotive industry once again - this time far beyond design and testing. Welcome to the near-future world of auto-piloted cars! Nvidia, a major player in the graphics industry, has introduced Nvidia Drive automotive computers offering computer vision and advanced cockpit visualization.

"Nvidia Drive will accelerate the intelligent car revolution by putting the visual computing capabilities of supercomputers at the service of each driver," says Jen-Hasun Huang, CEO/cofounder of Nvidia. Nvidia Drive is leveraging the Tegra X1 mobile super chip, built on the company's latest Maxwell GPU, to deliver over 1 teraflop of processing power. A result of all that power? Auto-Valet, which enables a car to find a parking space and park itself - without human interaction! Oh, and when you are ready to leave, the car will return automatically when summoned from a smartphone. (And you thought parallel parking assist was a big deal.)

When will this futuristic technology be available? In just a few months! Do make sure you secure your new vehicle, though. After all, there will be a supercomputer inside.

The auto industry is also responsible for prompting advances in digital scanning and rapid prototyping. Those efforts are now being enjoyed on many levels - by professionals and hobbyists alike. It's no secret that digital printing has found its way into a plethora of areas. Just about every nook and cranny of every industry is using 3D printing in some way or another to create apparel, jewelry, medical devices, toys, musical instruments, art, and even firearms.

Stuck in space without the proper tool to fix a broken part? Just 3D-print it, as those aboard the International Space Station did recently.

Hershey, which has made delicious chocolate candy for decades, is now printing up some delicious chocolate designs using 3D printing. Hershey, in collaboration with 3D Systems, has come up with the Cocojet, a 3D printer that can output custom designs in dark, milk, or white chocolate. It's not commercially available - yet.

More recently, 3D Systems announced a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, whereby students and faculty can explore 3D printing technology in artisan culinary methods. This spring, 3D

Systems is opening a culinary innovation center featuring food printers, enabling chefs to further explore their creative culinary skills.

Where will technology be used next?