By adding physics to 3D modeling Adobe's saving creatives hours

Adobe's latest experiment hopes to spare 3D artists from the dull and tedious aspects of their work while also enabling previously unthought-of use cases.

What if arranging 3D objects in virtual spaces was as easy and intuitive as arranging physical objects in the real world? That's the question Adobe's set out to answer in one of its latest experimental projects it's tentatively calling "Projects Physics Whiz." By adding physics to 3D creations, Adobe hopes to free designers, game developers, architects, and other creatives to focus on details like object layout and positioning and free them from the daunting, time-consuming task of ensuring objects don't intersect or otherwise look unnatural.

A sneak peek of what's to come — Adobe showed off Project Physics Whiz today as part of the "sneaks" portion of its annual Max conference. Jui-Hsien Wang, a research engineer at Adobe, who started out at the company as an intern while completing a PhD in computational mathematics at Stanford University, tells Input, the project remains very experimental, but that it will ultimately work with any piece of Adobe software that incorporates 3D widgets.

"Arranging objects in 3D is hard and time-consuming because of the high number of low-level manipulations needed, along with translations, rotations, and all of the panning and zooming required to check things aren't overlapping," Wang explains. "That's all much easier with real physics.

In the first example Wang showed us, an experienced designer was asked to arrange a handful of virtual books in a pile. The process took around four minutes, and entailed lots of small adjustments and other fiddling. With Physics Whiz, Wang was able to complete the same process in seconds.

Similarly, in another demo, instead of having to manually position 10 to 15 virtual pencils in a stationery holder, Wang was able to virtually grab them and drop them all at once, with the physics engine handling the rest and creating a natural-looking end result.

Squishy things coming too — For the moment, the software only works with rigid bodies, but Wang says deformable bodies are in the works. One of the advantages of the current limitation, though, is that adding physics doesn't significantly intensify processing demands, so the tool will be able to work on tablets rather than demanding high-end desktop machines.

Wang says he sees the project as a welcome opportunity to improve upon 3D modeling's traditional tools.

"We’ve had these for a long time. How to build widgets and transform objects is one of the first things you learn in 3D. But making them smart, well, that's a big step."