Natural ecosystems are as challenging to animate as they are fascinating to watch. The major challenge comes from their intrinsic complexity. In a given animation system, there may be a large number of animals, each of which may exhibit elaborate behaviors. Ideally, one would like to achieve an abundance of natural intricacy with minimal effort on the part of the animator. The challenge is exacerbated when one also demands visual authenticity in the appearance and locomotion of individual animals and in their behavior.
Ecosystems are characterized by the relationships between animals and their habitats. This means that when we look at an ecosystem, we are keenly aware of the behaviors exhibited by animals as they interact with their dynamic environment, especially with other animals. For example, a hunting scenario will not seem authentic if a rabbit hops around carelessly disregarding the presence of a hungry wolf, or if a crowd of pigeons rest calmly while a child runs in their midst. People's familiarity with various animals imposes strict criteria for the evaluation of the visual results of our proposed simulations, since even small imperfections in the animated motions or behaviors will be readily recognizable.
Visual realism, however, is not the only constraint on such animations. For applications in the entertainment and educational industries, the animator should be able to control various aspects of an animation. It is especially important to be able to easily modify an animation; for example, altering the virtual environment, changing the number, types and distribution of the virtual animals and, moreover, varying the personalities of the animals and even interacting with them.
|Xiaoyuan Tu||January 1996|