Close cooperation between computer graphics research and games industry benefits everyone

The differences between academic research and industrial R&D are apparent mainly time spans.

One of the objectives of computer graphics is to make the fantasy worlds of computer games possible.

-        In both academic graphics research and the games industry, people are working on ways to draw pictures of places that do not really exist and make them look as real as possible. For example, in Quantum Break just published by Remedy, the aim was to make the game as much like a film as possible by simulating lighting as realistically as possible, states Ari Silvennoinen, a Doctoral candidate at the Department of Computer Science.

The close cooperation between Aalto University and the games industry is based on researchers who have broad experience in both basic research and industry.

-        People generally think that industry and research are not closely connected. But the situation in computer graphics research at Aalto University is quite the opposite because some of the researchers work in both research and industry, says Professor Jaakko Lehtinen.

-        Our task here at university is to take risks and explore possible futures without the restrictions of production environments, whereas in the games industry, solutions must work immediately and have to be compatible with existing systems. However, many of the new technologies implemented by the industry originated from the academic world, even if they were not necessarily feasible for applications when they were published. However, in graphics this delay may sometimes be surprisingly small, Lehtinen adds.

Close collaboration with industry makes it possible to base academic research on data that is realistic from the point of view of applications, e.g. 3D models. This helps the researchers focus on the right problems.

-        Academic freedom means that it is possible to solve interesting long-term problems, whereas an industrial environment is restricted by schedules and budgets that limit the space for solutions. But in its own way, it is also a fascinating world, Silvennoinen adds.

One of the research problems is the calculation of realistic lighting in complex, moving 3D models.

-        For the game Max Payne, we calculated the realistic reflections of lightas a pre-process, and were the first in the world to do it. At the moment, Ari Silvennoinen and I study a model that enables realistic and natural indirect bounced light and shadows in real time. We are working to combine the heavy precalculations and the lighter run-time in a totally new way. If the outcome is successful, it will make computer games considerably more like films and more realistic, again, Lehtinen concludes.

In addition to his academic career, Jaakko Lehtinen has also worked as a researcher at NVIDIA since 2010. Ari Silvennoinen also works as a graphics programmer at Remedy, designing a graphics engine and graphics technology. Jaakko Lehtinen developed Max Payne games at Remedy between 1996 and 2006.

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