Creating realistic animal fur has always been a vexing problem for 3D animators because of the complex way the fibers interact with light. Now, thanks to our ubiquitous friend artificial intelligence, University of California researchers have found a way to do it better. "Our model generates much more accurate simulations and is 10 times faster than the state of the art," said lead author Ravi Ramamoorthi. The result could be that very soon, you'll see more believable (and no doubt cuter) furry critters in movies, TV and video games.
A lot of fur rendering systems were designed for human hair, and that's a problem. Fur fibers have a larger central section -- aka, the medulla -- that scatters light differently, giving a soft, yet glossy appearance. Current renderers don't look at the medulla, but merely consider how light bounces from one fur fiber to the next. As a result, they have to do a lot of number-crunching and tend to be slow.