Physically-based animation is a mini-industry. Here's the Animats
view of it.
The Old Guard
The first generation of engineering simulators, from the 1970s
Oriented towards aerospace and heavy industry..
Mechanical Dynamics, Inc. (Ann
Arbor, Michigan) Makers of ADAMS. Engineering dynamics since
the 1970s. Well-respected. FORTRAN-based. Not easy to use. Offers
consulting services, and is really more of a mechanical engineering
consultancy than a software vendor.
LMS CADSI (Coralville, Iowa)
Makers of DADS. The other old-timer. Again, more a consulting
service than a software vendor.
The '90s pioneers
The tools start to get user-friendly and begin to look like products.
Knowledge Revolution (San Mateo,
California) Makers of Working Model. The first shrink-wrapped
simulation product. Great user interface, but the dynamics engine
had problems. Originally priced around $500 and distributed through
retail channels, but unprofitable at that price point. Company acquired
by MSC Software (the NASTRAN people) and product repriced upwards
Parametric Technology (San Jose,
CA) Makers of Mechanica. Part of a full suite of high-end
engineering tools Prices somewhere in five figures.
The Animation Systems
Most modern animation systems have dynamics built in. Sometimes
Canada) Makers of Maya. The first animation system with a
dynamics package that worked at all. The technology used was David
Baraff's impulse/constraint approach. The rigid-body simulations
tend to look too bouncy and light, since, as with all impulse/constraint
systems, objects change direction instantaneously. We call this
the "boink problem".
The Game Toolkits
Nobody seems to make money selling tools for game development.
But people keep trying.
England) Makers of mathengine, originally positioned as a
component of a game engine. Great PR, but mediocre technology. Heavily
funded with venture capital (unusual for a UK-based startup), mathengine
made a big splash in 1998, expanding internationally to about 90
employees. They seem to have cut back somewhat since. As far as
we know, nobody ever actually used their product in a game that
shipped. Free demo versions of the base product, but actual use
requires negotiating a royalty deal.
Havok (Dublin, Ireland) A new
company, part of Telekinesys Research Ltd. Associated with Motion
Factory, which offers an elaborate kinematic game development environment.
Ipion (Munich, Germany) A smaller
player, but with style. Fun web site.