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Mining Companies Borrow From Gamers' Physics Engines

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the experts-in-blowing-things-up dept.

Games 39

littlekorea writes "Mining companies are developing new systems for automating blasting of iron ore using the same open source physics engines adapted for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The same engine that determines 3D collision detection and soft body/rigid body dynamics in gaming will be applied to building 3D blast movement models — which will predict where blasted materials will land and distinguish between ore and waste. Predictive blast fragmentation models used in the past have typically been either numerical or empirical, [mining engineer Alan Cocker] said. Numerical models such as discrete element method, he noted, are onerous to configure and demanding of resources — both computing and human — and are generally not appropriate for operational use at mines. 'The problem with empirical models, by contrast, is that they tend to operate at a scale too coarse to give results useful for optimizations,' he added, noting typical Kuz-Ram-based fragmentation models (PDF) (widely used to estimate fragmentation from blasting) assume homogeneous geology (the same type of materials) throughout a blast."

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39 comments

Captain Planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353171)

Is about to shit his fucking pants.

Re:Captain Planet (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353675)

We can model that too.

Missed pun opportunity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353189)

"Numerical models such as discrete element method, he noted, are onerous to configure and demanding of resources..."

Shouldn't it be "ore-nerous"?

Gonna n00b tube this mineshaft LOL. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353257)

Totally pwned the earth's crust with this frag.

Minecraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353261)

It sounds like they just want to play Minecraft!

Re:Minecraft (1)

kav2k (1545689) | about a year ago | (#43355791)

More like, we should expect Minecraft Pro sometime later as a spin-off of this.

Did hell just freeze over? (5, Funny)

jhantin (252660) | about a year ago | (#43353275)

This is rather notable in that it's the first article I've seen in a while that talks about both GPU-compute and mining without being about Bitcoin.

Re:Did hell just freeze over? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#43353307)

This is rather notable in that it's the first article I've seen in a while that talks about both GPU-compute and mining without being about Bitcoin.

You just invoked jhantin's law....

Re:Did hell just freeze over? (4, Funny)

jhantin (252660) | about a year ago | (#43353357)

This is rather notable in that it's the first article I've seen in a while that talks about both GPU-compute and mining without being about Bitcoin.

You just invoked jhantin's law....

I have my own law now? News to me. But I was talking about the articles linked from the story, not the comments.

Re:Did hell just freeze over? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#43353493)

Actually, I thought someone wrote a bitcoin mining routine in some FaceBook game or something. Another "alternate revenue stream."

Re:Did hell just freeze over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353613)

Also, both mining and gaming without being about Minecraft.

Re:Did hell just freeze over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353929)

Uh oh! The bubble's popping, folks! Sell before you lose the chance!

Not surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353323)

Movies like 2012, and just about every single open source project that needs a physics engine uses it. (sorry ODE and Newton, but bullet is better)

Re:Not surprising (2)

mehemiah (971799) | about a year ago | (#43354341)

THANK you, this isn't some game physics engine, its a physics engine for simulation that's commonly used for games. its also featured in blender. Its open source! that should have been in the summary for this audience.

Re:Not surprising (1)

bdwebb (985489) | about a year ago | (#43360809)

Totally agree that the Open Source aspect should have been more heavily featured. I think the point is that they may be Open Source but initial development of the best physics engines is typically for the gaming world with other potential applications. Bullet and Newton definitely were developed with mostly gaming in mind and even ODE's creator specifically referenced gaming as one of the key areas that the engine would be used for.

I think it is accurate to say that instead of commonly, these are physics engines that are 'mostly' used for games which are finding other awesome uses as people discover their potential in other fields.

Game Engines to the Rescue (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#43353473)

I guess where speed and (digital) resource optimization has been the name of the game for years, so to speak, it should be no surprise that game engines have applications other than keeping neckbeards from scratching their zits.

I hope they do their math (3, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43353519)

Cause the physics in video games are mostly there for looks and are highly inaccurate

Re:I hope they do their math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353603)

I was going to say the same thing....in his perspective, it's not empirical OR discreet - it's eyeballed.
Maybe artists can see things and create pseudo-algorithms that reflects the real world more efficiently. Hopefully it's scalable?

I did not RTFA.

Re:I hope they do their math (4, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43353615)

Mostly that has to do with incorrect/inappropriate weights being assigned to gameworld objects.

Many world objects weight exactly the same as styrofoam, but somehow have enough kinetic energy when thrown to instagib the bad guy. Others are made to weigh 100x that of lead, but somehow actually get tossed by an explosion instead of simply pushed a little.

If they plug in sane values for mass, center of mass, "bounciness", elasticity, inertia, and gravity, the should get mostly useful simulations. Issues with air pressure (it is an enclosed space, with an explosive charge, after all) might cause problems, but adapting it with another added value as a delta to object vectors (with a fall off radius) would fix it somewhat.

Re:I hope they do their math (3, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#43353901)

The physics simulations are usually pretty accurate. They're limited by a few factors:
-Developer incompetence: the framework you use may be good, but if you botch it up when integrating or give it insane values like huge boulders weighting a gram, it's not gonna look realistic.
-Real-time limitations: physics is largely simulated iteratively, and thus the larger the step the worse the simulation as errors tend to appear and propagate more when the system is infrequently simulated; if the step is lowered, many problems entirely go away.
-Networking limitations: many games these days are built with the idea of a multiplayer mode, so the engine is geared towards minimizing data transmission and latency at the cost of accuracy.
-Game focus: the physics engine isn't the focus, so it's usually not given a whole lot of processing power, which once again forces approximations; it's also not unusual for things to be tweaked so that they look good, even if that makes them inaccurate, because it's a game.

I'm pretty sure you can get some fairly nice results from the better physics engines if you tweak them to match your needs.

Re:I hope they do their math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43354835)

Its true that game physics are 'trimmed' for speed, Navier-Stokes algorithms are modified so that you don't ever divide by zero, and the models never ever 'blow up' (ignore the pun). The engines can be modified to provide real results. You have to be more careful with them when they are providing 'real' results because in the real world, some of the math is not forgiving of inflection points and data that brings ruin.

Game PCs are modern day supercomputers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355037)

The Cray of the late 90's was only as powerful as a top end gaming PC today. A Tesla class GPU can do 4.5 Teraflops at single precision, even 1.3 tflops at double precision.

When you see a game calculate the physics of particles in a tube, that's the same calculations that were done as a simulation by previous generations of supercomputers.

Re:Game PCs are modern day supercomputers (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | about a year ago | (#43355945)

A modern laptop with a dedicated GPU would still run in circles around Cray due the way overhead and specialized parts work.

Who would have thunk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353563)

Guess the physics engines are pretty life like when they start using them to predict real world interactions...

New procedure for mining... (3, Funny)

MiniMike (234881) | about a year ago | (#43353579)

adapted for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV

1) Blast the rock into pieces.
2) Slap the pieces until the metal falls out.
3) Profit!

Re:New procedure for mining... (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43353707)

4) avoid litigation when the "hot coffee" easter egg gets accidentally (on purpose) unlocked on the geological simulation system, under the codename "rock her world."

Re:New procedure for mining... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355765)

Blasting the crack
Blowing the hole
Pulling the plunger... wait, no, that's something else.

The engine name (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353721)

The engine name is Bullet and it's pretty good to work with. I have done some AR stuff with it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpBL6eqcJ6A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnaIVvNKjek

Re:The engine name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353925)

How would a 3D engine help with Accounts Receivable?

Re:The engine name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356245)

Augmented Reality, for those who don't break good ole /. tradition of not clicking any external links.

Re:The engine name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356371)

I'm the original poster, Bullet is not a 3d engine, it's a physics engine. If you saw my videos I used Bullet for physics (you saw the sphere falling right?) and Panda3d for 3d rendering and ARToolkit for marker detection.

Oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353781)

I figured they used Boulderdash.

tag lines (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43353867)

Mountaintop removal, powered by Unreal technology.
or
If you use cryengine, you can move mountains.

Wrong tool for the job (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43354017)

As awesome as Bullet is as a physics engine, it was meant for realtime gaming to precise simulation.

Re:Wrong tool for the job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355657)

Yes, obviously Angry Birds would be a better choice.

Re:Wrong tool for the job (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355789)

Yep. Bullet and comparable engines rely on a great deal of cheats and fakes to gracefully maintain stability and speed. If you've just got a couple of boxes knocking around in a scene, Bullet will be pretty accurate. But when you've got thousands of small fragments colliding with each other at high velocities, you run in to all sorts of hairy problems that are better solved using more robust methods. Hopefully they will be comparing the results to the DEM simulations to verify their validity. Judging by TFA, they will be modifying Bullet significantly to fit their needs, so all is well.

Re:Wrong tool for the job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43359555)

But when you've got thousands of small fragments colliding with each other at high velocities, you run in to all sorts of hairy problems that are better solved using more robust methods.

You can actually have it go the other way too, that if you have enough small fragments bouncing around, you can get more lax about how collisions are handled as long as they maintain various bulk or average properties. Analytic work on such problems will frequently make so major assumptions or simplifications to how collisions are handled, and depending on the results interested in, it doesn't have that much of an effect to do so.

Follow the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356597)

This would have been done YEARS ago if there weren't a financial driver discouraging it.

Were the gaming companies unwilling to license, or was there an agreement with some other company to use their tools and resources to accomplish the task of blasting effectively (probably affecting the price point of their tools) that did not allow for external influences (software), or was..............?

Every problem calls for the right tool... (1)

ntropia (939502) | about a year ago | (#43362645)

...or approximations of it. For this kind of simulations, there are are tools that are better, where "better" means more accurate, reliable and reproducible. Finite elements, for example, is one of them. Everything else is just horse manure covered with M&M's.
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