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Mapping volumes rather than surfaces could solve graphics problems in animation and computer-aided design

May 24, 2023

In computer graphics and computer-aided design (CAD), 3D objects are often represented by the contours of their outer surfaces. Computers store these shapes as “thin shells,” which model the contours of the skin of an animated character but not the flesh underneath.

This modeling decision makes it efficient to store and manipulate 3D shapes, but it can lead to unexpected artifacts. An animated character’s hand, for example, might crumple when bending its fingers—a motion that resembles how an empty rubber glove deforms rather than the motion of a hand filled with bones, tendons, and muscle. These differences are particularly problematic when developing mapping algorithms, which automatically find relationships between different shapes.

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