We saw an extremely neat demo of realistic water physics back in April. Now it's time to drop the temperature a bit and do the same thing with snow. Watch the video, emit a sound resembling the word "cool" and then ask the question: Who can we thank for this technology? Well, direct your fan letters to Disney, folks.
(Unfortunately, the person doing the presentation speaks very quickly in parts, making it difficult to understand the concepts — which are already tricky to get a hold on.)
While the video here was published early this month, it looks like the source is a SIGGRAPH 2013 presentation from July entitled "A Material-Point Method for Snow Simulation". The tech itself is a group effort from Disney Animation Studios and researchers from the University of California and involves "combining a Lagrangian/Eulerian semi-implicitly solved material-point method with an elasto-plastic constitutive model".
Which is way above my head, but I will definitely be cracking that sentence out at the next party I attend, because I enjoy repelling possible sources of social interaction.
So, why would Disney be interested in this sort of thing? 3D animated movies are big money these days and being able to simulate natural phenomena such as water and snow without an army of artists can save studios a lot of time and money. For instance, this particular implementation is used in an upcoming Disney feature called Frozen.
Game physics has always been an interesting subject, yet sadly, advances in the area often provide purely visual improvements. Hopefully in the years to come the processing power will be available that real-time simulated particle effects like these can have a gameplay impact. Basically, we need more bone-crushing avalanches, dammit.