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Monday, February 19, 2024

Nvidia’s dropped a video of an incredible AI-powered hairdressing sim and now I want a digital barbershop

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An Nvidia researcher, presenting at SIGGRAPH in the summer, will show off the most realistic barbershop simulator I’ve ever seen. And weirdly now I really want to get my hands on some virtual scissors and go to town on this digital Barbie head.

The tens of thousands of hairs simulated here are using neural physics, a technique which harnesses the AI processing power of your graphics card to predict how something will move and interact with other objects in the real world. Looking at the video, there’s an RTX Real-Time at the top, suggesting Nvidia’s RTX cards will be the ones with the specific processing power for this technique. 

“This technique finally enables both accurate and interactive physically based hair grooming,” reads the description on the video. Now, the ‘finally’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting for me there, because I wasn’t aware there was such a genuine desire out there for hair grooming simulators.

But now I’ve seen one in action, it could be a real nice cozy game for those times where you don’t want the stress of saving the universe, or blasting zombies/Nazis.

To be fair, the sim genre is a bit of an oddity in gaming terms, because even the most banal of endeavours can be transformed into the most absorbing hobby simply by its recreation as a PC-based sim. Farming Simulator is huge; Bus and Truck Simulators have large followings; Jet Wash Simulator picked up its share of fans, and I’ve whiled away hours on Car Mechanic Simulator myself.

That’s not to mention the people simming of The Sims, the classic bug-tracking Sim Ant, and of course Flight Simulator.

So yeah, I could absolutely get behind Hair Salon Simulator. You get the combination of business management, the joy of brand marketing, potential franchising, and the heady thrill of seeing your follicle creations rendered in physically accurate 3D on-screen. I’ve seen enough Queer Eye, I reckon I could ace it.

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Gilles Daviet, the author of the paper, Interactive Hair Simulation on the GPU using ADMM, mostly references the difficulty for digital artists to create high-quality hair strands for virtual characters. This new method is designed to make it both more realistic than the current mostly geometry-based methods, and less computationally intensive as it leverages the parallel processing power of modern GPUs.

Should you wish to bathe in the algorithmic beauty of Daviet’s hair sim techniques then you can download the .pdf and give it a look ahead of its publication at SIGGRAPH in August. And it really goes to highlight the statements from earlier this week about how the majority of Nvidia’s work goes into the software rather than the hardware.

Anyways basically, it should lead to a really awesome new version of Hairworks. Hopefully in time for The Witcher 4, eh?

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