Have you ever been fooled into thinking that a computer rendering of an object was the real thing? I certainly have. And the way research is progressing, I am quite sure it is only going to get more difficult to distinguish between real and fabricated images. Over the past several years, a wide variety of sophisticated tools have emerged to create extremely accurate 3D computer models, and more importantly, to accurately simulate how light interacts with these models. These rendering techniques carefully take into account the different reflection, absorption, and scattering properties of each material in the fake scene of interest (e.g., a person’s skin, or the leaves on a tree) to ensure a realistic optical appearance. In this Applied Optics article, Simonot et al. detail a new mathematical model to predict how light interacts with a diverse set of materials to improve rendering. Their technique splits up each surface of an object into a stack of individual layers, and simplifies the interaction of light with each layer to that between just four components. The total effect of the simulated material is then easily computed from the collection of layers through a system of linear equations. The end result is a simple and fast way to make sure that the 3D computer renderings within future movies, games, and virtual reality experiences will be that much better at tricking us into believing their authenticity.
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