Ames Laboratory awarded R&D ‘Oscar of Invention’

Katherine Klingseis

R&D Magazine, a research and development magazine, gives awards to the 100 most technologically significant products introduced in the past year. The R&D 100 Awards are often called the “Oscars of Invention,” and Ames Laboratory has received 18 of these Oscars, including one in 2010.

The U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory won the R&D 100 award for its work on osgBullet, a software package that utilizes OpenSceneGraph, a high performance 3-D graphic toolkit; and Bullet, a 3-D game multi-physics library.

The lead scientists for the project were Mark Bryden, program director of Ames Laboratory’s Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science research program and associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Doug McCorkle, associate scientist at Ames Laboratory and ISU Virtual Reality Application Center. The software will be used by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“For the army, [osgBullet] will be used in their engineering design process for their maintenance containers and repair facilities,” McCorkle said. “They use this to shorten and lower the cost of their design and engineering process.”

OsgBullet enables its users to create 3-D environments. With previous models, the design was all done on a code level. However, osgBullet automates this process, making the process easier, faster and cheaper.

“The engineer or scientist [working with osgBullet] has a high level of control over the data that’s created and can be used in the 3-D environment,” McCorkle said.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to use osgBullet to create virtual walkthroughs of power plants. The walkthroughs will be created to display new technologies in the power plants.

“OsgBullet is highly focused on being able to handle large CADD assemblies, large 3-D models, for the purpose of engineering the end design very efficiently,” McCorkle said.

Most products on the market today are focused on training environments or game simulation. Software used for training and gaming are not well-suited for engineering. OsgBullet is capable of handling most of an engineer’s demands.

Next year, Bryden and McCorkle plan to enhance osgBullet by allowing its users to interact with objects anywhere on Earth.

“We’ll have an integrated environment with [Geographic Information System] data, and then you can go anywhere on the surface of the Earth and look at the design and the context of the surroundings,” McCorkle said.

The scientists will also be working on performance enhancements to the simulator and automatic detail control for large assemblies, in order to create a multi-body dynamic physics data.

“I hope [osgBullet] becomes a well-used toolkit for rapidly creating interactive 3-D environments based on 3-D CADD data,” McCorkle said. “I hope [support for osgBullet] will continue to grow and expand, and attract more users.”