Ironing out the material challenge for the metaverse and digital twins

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Better file formats and standards for representing 3D structures such as USD and glTF have played a crucial role in advancing metavers and digital twins. However, there has been little explanation for the content. Vendors, artists and enterprises today alleviate these problems through design tools and rendering engines or multiple versions generated in a given ecosystem.

Now, the 3D industry and industrial designers are looking for ways to promote material interoperability across tools. This can allow creators or businesses to create virtual representations of new fabrics, upholstery, style, shoes or paint and present them precisely in a variety of tools and 3D worlds everywhere.

There are actually two complementary content inter-efficiency challenges. First, each rendering engine has a different approach to capturing and presenting the physical appearance of the material under different lighting conditions. Second, there are multiple ways to represent the physical properties of a material, such as how it folds, drapes, feels, blows in the wind, or resists fire.

It may take some time for the industry to come together in any one format. Each tool, including U3M, AXF, MDB, MTL, KMP and SBS, and various file formats have emerged to help exchange content in the virtual world, each with its strengths and weaknesses. It may be that industry-specific formats dominate their respective domains, while others are used across entire domains.

A real look

Enterprises creating 3D assets for games and entertainment are exploring how technology processing of materials such as physical-based rendering (PBR) can improve the appearance of the virtual world. “People think of content as a fabric, in general, but the 3D industry talks about content as a visual thing,” said Elliott Round, M-XR, co-founder and CTO of the 3D production platform, VentureBeat.

Most people are familiar with the way primary colors like red, yellow and blue are combined to create different colors. The material takes this one step further, with additional texture maps representing other properties such as albedo, metalness, roughness, opacity and diffuse. This is where it gets complicated. “Different render engines have different physical properties,” Round explains. “Some will have five dimensions, while others may have ten, so they can all work a little differently. That’s something we hope to solve to better integrate 3D with other companies. “

The industry has traditionally faced computational and memory barriers to accurately rendering content. But now these barriers are being overcome with better computers and algorithms. “I hope we get to a point where we no longer have to sort out the cut corners and hack stuff because there are fewer obstacles,” Round said. “It can be as unified as the real world.”

His company is developing tools and techniques to quickly capture the visual properties of real-world objects in the virtual world. They began using tools such as photography and structured light scanning to capture 3D objects. “All of these approaches give you really good 3D geometry, but none of them will give you physical information. And that’s arguably the key to photo realism,” Round explains. These include aspects such as how light is reflected from an object and whether it is scattered, absorbed or transmitted.

His team also explored a variety of swatch scanners frequently used in the textile industry. Such scanners from companies like Vizoo and X-Rite can obtain visual material properties by scanning a fabric switch or a piece of paper. Artists and enterprise applications can later apply this to a 3D object. Round said the scans are really good but don’t work particularly well for scanning the whole object, encouraging research on better whole object capturing techniques. Epic recently invested in the M-XR to help measure these tools for 3D creators.

A real realization

Companies that make physical materials, such as textiles, upholstery and clothing, face additional physical challenges. They also need to capture the physical feeling of things using different tools and approaches. For example, Brew Textiles, the Belgian textile giant, spent four years developing a workflow to capture visually and physically accurate textile digital twins for its new Twinbrew service. Joe de Reeder, Twinbrew Partnership Development Manager, told VentureBeat, “[The digital twin] The material is 100% replica of the physical fabric according to the specification. “

This design helps companies build real prototypes like new hotel lobbies and quickly find diversification for customers. In the past, they had to guess the look through the switch book and create a makeup that didn’t always look like a finished product. “Having digital twins shortens the supply chain, reduces complexity and increases accuracy,” said De Reeder.

However, it is a complex process. It took the Twinbrew team years to develop and streamline the workflow for capturing visual and physical properties and rendering them into digital twins. They used a combination of X-Rite and Vizoo scanners to retrieve AXF and U3M files representing the visual aspects of the fabric. In addition, they worked with Labotex to capture the physical properties of textiles in SAP databases that are converted to the appropriate physics engine format. They have created digital twins of fabric available for Nvidia Omniverse, Chaos Cosmos, ArchiUp and Swatchbook.

Improved industry collaboration can help streamline the same workflow for other companies that make and operate textiles, paints, textiles and other materials. The 3D Digital Coalition’s 2020 Digital Fabric Physics Interoperability Survey concludes that it is now possible to measure five fabric physics attributes at once and accurately translate them into equivalent physics values ​​for multiple 3D apparel software solutions. These include band, stretch / elongation, shear / diagonal stretch, weight and thickness.

Industry leaders are also starting to collaborate on open standards. For example, Browserware, which makes 3D fashion design software, is collaborating with Vizu to adopt the Unified 3D Materials (U3M) standard in the fashion industry. A big advantage compared to other formats is that it can capture both the visual information and the physical properties of the fabric.

“I really believe that in order for Metavers to evolve to the point of mass adoption, materials and textures need to be presented precisely,” said Avihay Feld, CEO of Browserware, VentureBeat. “The artificial vision involving digital twins as a static snapshot of the physical world is a good start. Digital twins are better at evolving a picture of reality synchronized with reality. “

He argues that it is not clear where the metavers are going, but it is easy to imagine two possibilities. There is a metavers that depart from reality, where the virtual world ignores the laws of physics. Another is metavars that mimic reality so that users have experiences that correspond to what is possible in the real world.

He believes that in this second case a true-to-life representation of both visual and physical properties would be necessary. Having real objects within the virtual world will make it more immersive and engaging, but it will also enable Metavers to support different use cases. One of the main things is commerce, not strictly digital things, but real life things. In this second case, there must be true digital twins, from the point of view of visualizing the texture and imitating the physics of the object.

“While these two possibilities may coexist, but without true-to-life experiences, it is likely that Metavers will continue to be a fantasy world for tech-savvy rather than a transformative new universe,” Feld said.

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