DynLab

>> Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm currently coding DynLab, a scientific visualization tool that uses OpenCL for geometry and physics, OpenGL for rendering, and Qt as the overall framework. Some of the theory is difficult, particularly that involving boundary representation and object collision, but I'm enjoying the work. Thankfully, there are two technologies that make life easier:

  • ODE (Open Dynamics Engine) - An open-source toolset for computing rigid body dynamics
  • COLLADA (Collaborative Design Activity) - An open-source XML format for representing 3-D objects
I'd worked with COLLADA when I wrote the Cell processor book, but that was version 1.4. The latest version of COLLADA, 1.5, supports physics and boundary representation, so that's wonderful.

And so is ODE. Not only does it provide routines related to rigid-body dynamics, it also provides a test application that demonstrates how ODE and OpenGL work together. As I port aspects of ODE to OpenCL, I'm genuinely impressed with the author's code and documentation. I'm surprised I'd never heard of this before.

One thing bothers me, though. ODE hasn't had an official update since 2009. COLLADA hasn't had a new version since 2008. Has the Khronos Group decided that COLLADA 1.5 is perfect, or have they realized that commercial users are relying on Microsoft's technology (stable and integrated) instead of their own (high-performance but decentralized).

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