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Between Geometry and Material: Toward Next-Level Virtual Realism

Shuang Zhao, PhD

Previous development in graphics has made it possible to construct virtual worlds with remarkably rich appearances. The use of such computer generated images, however, were largely limited to entertainment, because they usually do not look like what we see in reality.

Virtual object representations generally involve two types of
information: *geometry* (i.e., the shape of an object) and *material* (i.e., how it interacts with light). In reality, there is no clear boundary between these properties. Traditionally, a simplistic framework which uses smooth 2D surfaces for geometry and local light reflection/refraction profiles for material has been used in graphics almost exclusively. This framework, unfortunately, has been shown to have limited representative power.

In this talk, I will present my research that looks at a whole range of possibilities to place the *interface* between geometry and material. In particular, we introduced micro-appearance modeling for fabrics, which describes fabric geometry using detailed 3D volumes while keeping the material representation simple. This new definition of fabric geometry and material has brought the quality of computer rendered fabrics to a new level. In addition, we develop more sophisticated material (light scattering) models to enlarge the range of materials whose appearances can be captured computationally.

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