SimplyCube beta available, Microsoft TechDays, New website

February 9, 2010 by

Today is an important day for SimplySim, we’re officially launching the beta period of the SimplyCube simulation engine.

SimplyCube box

SimplyCube Beta

The beta period for the SimplyCube starts today. This first beta package includes the first version of the SimplyCube simulation engine, along with the associated documentation and the Asset Compiler tool. We also include a large number of tutorials to help you get started with this new product. Our first tutorials cover the field of 3D rendering, physics, and sound. They will soon be followed by more tutorials, demo, and learning material (especially on our service oriented architecture).

We’ll open progressively the number of user allowed in, and eventually the beta will be fully public. You can register for the beta on our new website, and we’ll notify you when you have been accepted to the beta. The only thing we ask you, as our first users, is to notify us with any question or problem you encounter so we can help you. Please use our forum for that. You’re also welcome to showcase the project you’re developing on our simulation engine in the forum. And eventually we’d like to give some of you access to our blog to showcase and explain their project.

Microsoft Techdays

For those of you who are in Paris, Microsoft has invited us to launch our product in a session at the Microsoft Techdays. The session is in room 242A at 5:30 pm at the Palais des Congrès de Paris (Porte Maillot). The TechDays are free and I think there is an on-site registration, so it might not be too  late even if you haven’t registered yet.

For everyone else, the session are filmed and will be available on the web in a few days (we’ll notify you on this blog when our session is online). We’ll also make our presentation slide available tonight after the presentation.

We’d like to thank Microsoft once again for giving us this opportunity, and especially everyone in the Bizspark and IDEES program of Microsoft. These two programs are really a huge help for a young and innovative startup company !

New website

As some of you may have noticed already, we have recently launched a new website. This website is completely dedicated to our real time 3D simulation product offering. The website will still evolve in the following weeks (with more content in the gallery and the product section), and will eventually be completed with our online store.

SimplySim website


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New screenshots of the SimplyCube 3D simulation engine

February 2, 2010 by

As we’re moving closer to the opening of the beta version of the SimplyCube simulation engine, I wanted to share with you a few screenshots of our latest projects.

Robotics / apartment simulation

Here the robotics / apartment simulation you’ve already seen in our previous blog posts. The robot represented here is a PekeeII by Wany Robotics. In this project, thanks to our use of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio CCR/DSS architecture, the simulated and the real robot can be controlled by the exact same software, and the same user interface.

SimplyCube - PekeeII in apartment

SimplyCube - PekeeII closeup

SimplyCube - PekeeII Bedroom

Underwater simulation

The screenshots below are from an underwater simulation project. Several advanced 3D techniques are in used here (caustics, ambient occlusion, depth of field…)

SimplyCube - Underwater

SimplyCube - Underwater Shark

SimplyCube - Underwater closeup

Starting tomorrow we’ll be in Monaco for Imagina, if you’re nearby, we’ll be glad to welcome you on our booth where you’ll see all these applications live.

SimplyCube, a complete real time 3D solution

January 29, 2010 by

In the first post of this blog we’ve introduced briefly our simulation engine. Now we are moving closer to the release of the first beta version of this engine and it’s time start talking about what’s coming next. And this is the SimplyCube.

SimplyCube logo

The SimplyCube

The SimplyCube is the real commercial name of our product offer; it is composed of two elements: the simulation engine, and a set of editors. The SimplyEngine is for software developers, and though we’ve made it as simple and easy to use as possible, creating a full simulation scene is always much easier with graphical edition tools. Each of these editors addresses a specific aspect of creating a 3D application. Used independently they allow precise tuning and customization of each element of a real time 3D scene. Used together they allow quick editing of a complete simulation scene, with no specific knowledge of 3D software development. Today we’ll present the first four editors we’ll release:

SimplyEdit

The SimplyEdit

The SimplyEdit, is our 3D scene editor. This is the central tool where you can set up the 3D scene. From the definition of the basic setting of the scene (ground, water, sky) to arranging objects and light sources in the scene to finally setting up the last details before importing the scene in your application.

Here’s a quick list of things you can use in this tool to define the scene:

  • Terrain (ground, water, underwater, sky)
  • Objects (we can import any model created by Autodesk software, more detail in “asset compiler”)
  • Lights and shadows (several lights and shadow type available)
  • Sounds (2D or 3D sound sources)
  • Post processing effect (for advanced rendering)

The edition possibilities of SimplyEdit are however kept simple, to keep the user interface understandable, pleasant and easy to use. For most of the simulation elements, you’ll simply have to choose between different options in a list. For example the 3D model are not created or modified by the SimplyEdit, you can just choose which model to import and where to set them up in the scene. Of course we leave you the possibility to control and edit things more in depth, but this is done separately in the other editors (to keep our example, to define in detail how a specific 3D model should look, how it should react to lights, you’ll have to use the SimplyShader editor).

Asset Compiler

The Asset Compiler

The Asset Compiler is an essential tool to import assets in our simulation engine (a first version of the Asset Compiler will be available in the beta of the Simulation Engine). It can process any 3D model file in the .FBX file format, which mean you can import any 3D model created by Autodesk 3D edition tools (Maya, 3DS Max …). We are also compatible with the .X file format so you can import any XNA compatible 3D model. The asset compiler can also import textures files (images in BMP, JPG, DDS…) and shaders (.fx) created by FX Composer (Nvidia) or Render Monkey. This ensures two important things:

  • You can rely on the high quality creation tools of other software editors (Autodesk, Nvidia, AMD…)
  • If you have already existing libraries of 3D models, you can easily import them in our tools.

SimplyPhysics

The SimplyPhysics

The SimplyPhysics editor is a unique tool to define every physic property of a 3D object. As we’ve seen before, accurate physic simulation is essential, as it guarantee the realistic behavior of objects in a 3D scene. To ensure this accurate physic simulation, it is essential to define the properties of every 3D objects. With the SimplyPhysics, you can define:

  • The mass/or density of any object
  • Simple collision shapes for accurate and efficient physic collisions
  • The physics properties of objects (damping, inertia, force and torque)
  • The material properties of objects (friction, elasticity)
  • Joints (to create complex physics objects)

It is important to note that thanks to our multi physic engine support, the properties of the objects are defined for every physic engine in a single editor. Of course, the 3D models we provide with our simulations are already set up with correct physic settings, so if you’re a novice user you can create simulation without having to bother about physic concepts.

SimplyShader

The SimplyShader

The SimplyShader is an edition tool where you can define and configure the “shaders” that affects a 3D object. “Shaders” are advanced 3D graphics techniques that enable very realistic 3D rendering in real time. In the SimplyShader you can add details and texture to an existing 3D model, set up the way the object react to light, or the reflection of an object. Here is a list of the type of “Shader” you can define in this editor:

  • Multi layered surface
  • Normal and Parallax mapping (add relief to an object)
  • Self illumination (for object that are also light sources)
  • Reflections
  • Specular mapping (define the way the object react to light)

Upcoming editors

We have several other editors planned for 2010, 2011 and 2012, they will bring new easy edition capabilities and give you more control on the simulation. We’ll announce them on this blog.

Real time 3D simulation scene created with the SimplyCube

Real time 3D simulation scene created with the SimplyCube


SimplySim in 2010: Product release, Imagina and Microsoft Techdays

January 7, 2010 by

First, in the name of everyone working at SimplySim, I’d like to wish a happy new year to all our readers. All the best for 2010 🙂 For SimplySim, 2010 will be the year we release our products. So in today’s post we will give you a first view of our roadmap for this year.

February 2010

February will be an important month for us as it is the month we release the first version of our simulation engine and participate to two important conferences. We’ll also start the month by releasing a new website that better present our products and company.

From February 3rd to 5th we will be at Imagina 2010 in Monaco to present our products. We’ll have a booth in the exhibition hall, so if you’re nearby take the time to visit us; the access to the exhibition hall is free for all professionals, students, and education personnel (you’ll just have to register).

Imagina 2010

From February 8th to 10th we will be in Paris for Microsoft TechDays. I have attended the TechDays twice and it’s a really great conference for anyone interested in software, the access to the conferences and exhibition hall is free (you just have to register). I highly recommend everyone to attend (note that most of the conferences are in French). We have a session there where we’ll present our product (in the “Enjeux”, “Innovation et Recherche” thematic).

TechDays

Product release

During the first months, the product will be in beta version, first to a limited number of users and then in an open beta. The exact duration of the beta period is not yet defined but probably around 2 – 3 months, this should give us time to get some good feedback on the product. We’ll open the registration for the closed beta soon, so stay tuned (we’ll announce it on this blog).

Apartment simulation environment

apartment simulation environment in the SimplyEngine


The many uses of real time 3D technologies

December 18, 2009 by

SimplySim designs software tools to create 3D applications. As you might already have seen in our drone simulation, these tools permit to design 3D simulation applications, but there are several kinds of 3D applications that can be created with them. In today’s post, we have a quick look at different potential applications.

SimplySim apartment simulation

This interactive simulation environment can be used for any application from robotics simulations to serious games, or architectural design project.

Simulation

There are several ways to use 3D simulation in different fields: from the experimentation of new systems to the fields of education and training, or the study of human behaviors in realistic conditions. As explained before, the SimplyEngine has been specifically designed for real time 3D simulation, not only for UAVs but for any system.

When we talk about 3D software, video games are what come to most people’s mind (probably because video games are the first 3D applications that have reached our homes). However when we started doing 3D simulation, we felt that today the industry lacks a real 3D real time simulation engine, a software that is really designed for simulation, not for video games.

Video games

Speaking of video games, the needs of the two fields of simulation and video games can often be the same (and that led some game engine to be used in simulation projects). However the priorities are different and sometimes conflicting: simulation needs more realism, accuracy and easy interactions with other software. That doesn’t mean that you cannot use our simulation engine for video games (and given the quality of our 3D graphic real time rendering this would be understandable), just be warned that the software has been created for simulation and that the first upgrades will be for simulation.

Serious Games

During the last decade, both simulation and video game industries gave birth to “serious games”, which apply video game technology to serious purposes. The limit between serious games, simulations, and traditional video games can be hard to define. We like to see serious games as a simulation that includes some game mechanisms. In any case our product is particularly well suited to the creation of serious games thanks to its high realism and multiple possibilities in terms of interactions.

Virtual reality

Another domain related to those above is the field of virtual reality. 3D has been used in virtual reality for several years now. This is a domain where software and hardware interactions are numerous, and deserve to be simple. Our solution is based on service oriented architecture, and offers very easy ways to integrate any software or hardware with the 3D applications you create with it.

Architecture, 3D Marketing, and more

Of course our tools can also be used in other domains, such as architecture (where 3D has brought a lot in terms of efficiency and cost reduction) or marketing (where 3D offers a new media for brand and product advertising). People working in these domains, and other newcomers to the 3D technologies should particularly appreciate the easy to use and “keep it simple” approach we used when we designed our tools.


An inside look: the technology used in our 3D simulation

December 3, 2009 by

In today’s post we’re going to discuss the technology we use to create our real time 3D simulations, and what we think of these technologies. This inside look should also give you a good idea of what to expect from our products.

SimplySim realistic real time 3D simulation

real time 3D urban simulation using the SimplyEngine

Easy and rapid programming: Microsoft .NET

As we explain in our introduction post on our product, one of our goals is to offer you a product that is easy to use, to enable any developer to benefit from real time 3D simulation technologies. As developer ourselves, we already had an idea of what “ease of use” can mean for a developer, and that led us quite immediately to the choice of Microsoft .NET

As we wanted performance and quality 3D rendering we didn’t had many option: standard C++ or .NET (java was clearly not an option). Then the choice was easy: .NET had two major advantages, the first was for our team: .NET meant that we could develop more rapidly and efficiently (and Visual Studio is an awesome IDE). The second and probably most important advantage is simply that it would be the same for our customers! Plus they can choose their programming language in the variety that the .NET framework offers (as for us, we use and recommend C#).

Graphic engine: Microsoft XNA

The choice of XNA as a graphic engine came quite naturally too, it’s using direct X 9.0 guaranteeing performance and nice 3D rendering and it’s on .NET. Plus we liked their asset managing utility. We’ve tested many other 3D engines in many programming languages before, and XNA is, for now, our choice.

Editors interface: Microsoft WPF

An important part of the “ease of use” (or “simply spirit” as we like to call it) that we wanted in our products meant that we had to design efficient user interfaces for our editors. That led us to WPF, mainly because we liked the freedom we had to design our interface combined to the ease of use of the technology.

Software interaction: Microsoft CCR/DSS

We first discovered Microsoft CCR/DSS when we started to use Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio, and we just love this technology. We had already played a bit with the concept of “service oriented” or “component oriented” architecture before and DSS is a really nice implementation of these concepts, while CCR offers a very smart way to solve concurrency and coordination problems. We’ll discuss more about this in a dedicated post, but to sum up the main advantage of this technology for us it to enable our 3D simulation to be really easy to interface with any other software application.

Physic engine: the multi-engine option

As you’ll have understood if you watched our first demo of our UAV simulation, physic realism is really important in our product. So we’ve had a look at all the different physic engine available on the market (PhysX, Newton, ODE, Havok, and a few others) and after an in depth review, we decided not to choose. In fact these physic engines have not been created for the same purpose, and they have different strong points. Some have very good performance with a lot of objects, some are really focusing on the accuracy of the movements, others are designed for fast moving objects… and we felt that the choice of the physic engine really depended on the type of application. So we’ve built the SimplyDynamics, a software library that gives you the opportunity to choose the physic engine you’re application is using. And as it might not be evident which one to choose, you can make this choice at the very last moment: at run time!

How we got it all for free: Microsoft Bizspark program

Finally another thing we like about the technologies and the tools we use is that we’ve access to it for free. We’re member of a really cool program called Microsoft Bizspark that helps innovating startup by providing access to Microsoft software, support and visibility. We had already chosen Microsoft technologies for our development because it answered really well our needs, but Bizspark membership clearly made things easier.

SimplySim is a BizSpark StartUp

More about our UAV simulation

November 27, 2009 by

Today, Loïc Morvan, who created the UAV  simulation (UAV stands for unmanned aerial vehicle). I have presented in a video last week, is going to tell us more about his work.

SimplySim UAV Simulation

Loïc, what is exactly behind this UAV simulation?

Well, this is a real physic 3D real-time simulation that you see here. It is based on Microsoft XNA for 3D rendering, and on different physic engines for physics. The simulated drone which is flying here has real physic attributes such as its mass, inertia, collision shapes… and it behaves realistically to torques and forces we apply to it. The physic equations are solved by precise discrete solvers, which make the drone having a behavior close to reality.

How did you build that simulated drone, and how long did that take?

The whole construction of the simulated drone did not take more than a few days.

First, we need the 3D model of the drone. That part of the work is done by our 3D designers, and it is actually the longer (1 or 2 days).

Then, we have to define the physic shapes of the drones, and physic constraints (mass, dynamic friction, static friction…). As the physic shapes are defined independently from the 3D model, we can choose our degree of complexity by using more or less accurate physic shapes.

Once the 3D model and physic properties are defined, I have attached some sensors, like the camera and the inclinometers.

Finally, I have added the rotors which are generic objects composed by a rotor blade and an engine (mechanic joint), so that the drone flying algorithm can be implemented.

That was over. The next step was to implement the drone control algorithms to test its behavior.

The simulated drone is supposed to behave like the real one, but you use generic objects, how can you explain that?

Generic objects such as the rotors have many parameters so that you can customize them to create your precise item. Here I have set particular max rotation speed and max torque for my rotors, but we could imagine setting other values for another drone.

What about the drone sensors (camera, inclinometers…)?

We also use generic elements. If you want to create a particular simulated motion camera, you just have to take our generic one and modify the parameters: size and quality of the pictures, number of frames per second, additional noise… That’s it!

Could you tell us more about how the wind is simulated?

The simulated wind is pre-generated considering the static objects (buildings…) which compose the simulation. This generation produces a 2D or 3D map which contains the wind information in each 3D point of the environment. Some of the algorithms we use for that come from the world of image processing.

The map is then inserted into the simulation and the wind is applied to every physic object.

You talk about “multi physic engine compatibility”, could you explain what it is exactly?

A physic engine is the program which computes the physic calculations. It contains the discrete solver used to integrate the equations. There are many physic engines available on the market: PhysX, Newton Game Dynamics, Havok, ODE…

Today, most of simulations are compatible with only one of these physic engines. What we do at SimplySim, is to provide the ability to be compatible with any of them, thanks to a technology that we have called SimplyDynamics. This is why we can talk about “multi physic engine compatibility”.

When you create a 3D simulation, do you only need the SimplyEngine?

No, I also need the 3D models of what I want to simulate. For the drone, we have modeled the drone and the 3D environment with 3D modeling tools which our not created by SimplySim. After that, we worked with the SimplyEngine and with our own edition tools.

Can you tell us a bit more about these edition tools ?

These edition tools represent an easy and graphic way to create the different parts of a simulation. For instance, we have one editor to design the physic properties, which is more user-friendly than typing code! There are a lot of other editors we prepare, some of them will be released in 2010, the goal is really to ease as much as possible the process of creating a 3D simulation.

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Drone in city center video

November 20, 2009 by

Today we introduce a first video of the SimplyEngine (our new 3D simulation engine). This video shows a demo we created around the use case of a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) simulation in a city center.

If you want to learn more about our drone simulation, check out this page. We’ll also make a longer post here in the following weeks to give you a more detailed view of our work on this simulation. By the way if you have questions or comments, feel free to ask 😉


Introducing our « 3D simulation engine » : the SimplyEngine

November 18, 2009 by

Since the beginning of 2009, we’ve been busy working on a new product to increase dramatically the realism of real time 3D simulations. I think it is now time to start showing the first preview of this new product… In today’s post we’ll talk about the driving ideas behind the product, why we created it, and the early conception choices we have made.

3D urban environment by SimplySim

Realism is more than just nice looking 3D

Since we have launched our company, our mission has been to bring the most realistic 3D simulations to our customers. 3D simulation consists of creating a virtual model of a real life (or hypothetical) situation, usually to study it (there are other uses of 3D simulation technologies that we will discuss in another post). Realism is of course the goal of anyone who develops or uses a simulation.

3D graphic realism can be stunning nowadays but it represents only one element of realism. 3D is only a tool, which should be made as useful as possible for the real aims of the software application. When we decided to create our simulation engine, we had of course graphic realism in mind (and I think the screenshots tells enough of what we have done on that point) but more importantly we had identified other essential aspects of realism for our product.

The SimplyEngine is what we like to call a “3D simulation engine”, that is the core software on which any real time 3D simulation can be built. We decided to call it a “simulation engine”, because it is not only a nice looking 3D engine, but it includes important elements for physic realism and for software and hardware interactions.

Physic simulation

Our first 3D simulations were made for robotic simulation. Testing and validating the behavior of a robot in a 3D software application is a challenging task. One essential aspect of this challenge is physics realism: creating a simulation where objects behave realistically, where they are liable to physic laws.

When we created our product, physic realism was one of the key priorities. We have created a full software library dedicated to it, with among other thing the ability to use any of the physic engines available on the market (NVidia PhysX, Newton Game Dynamics, Havok, ODE…).

Interactions with software and hardware

As I was saying above, we really consider that 3D technologies should be a tool. A tool that can be applied to many problems and that therefore should have the ability to interact easily with many other elements (software, hardware or human beings) to create a solution.

Our 3D simulation engine is based on a service oriented software architecture that has been designed to make every part of our product easily compatible with any other software application. We’ll discuss in an upcoming post the benefits of our service oriented software architecture.

Ease of use

Finally, we believe that the user should always be the main focus of any software application. That’s why our developments are focused on the ease of use of our products. Our goal is that any software developer should be able to use 3D technologies in his applications, and in ways relevant to his business needs, without any specific formation. Again it will take another post to tell you more about the efforts we made on the ease of use… stay tuned! 🙂


SimplySim is now blogging!

November 13, 2009 by

Welcome everyone,

This is the corporate blog of SimplySim, a software startup company based in France and specialized in real time 3D technologies. This blog is dedicated to showcase the many interesting uses of real time 3D technologies, and how it can solve real life problems. Of course we’ll also talk about our corporate actuality and our products, but the main focus of this blog shall remain on how our customers and partners use our technologies to solve problems and make this world better.

This blog is also designed to be a place of dialog with anyone interested by real time 3D technologies; we welcome your views and comments.