Last year Action = Reaction Labs released Aves [Free], a (then) paid tech demo disguised as a archery game that featured both binaural 3D audio and an animation technology known as "BioReplicants". We explained what this all was in our review:

Aves uses GHOST binaural audio, which requires headphones, but creates an eerily realistic three dimensional effect to all the in-game music and sound. The animation technology in the game is called "BioReplicants," and has no preset animations for the birds flying around in the game. Instead, the physics model is built around a virtual muscular-skeleton system to create a bird rag doll that moves and flies identical to how a bird would fly in the real world.

At GDC this year, we met with the guys from Action = Reaction Labs, and while they weren't ready to show anything publicly, we saw what the next iteration of the BioReplicants technology looked like. Recently, they offered us a video of this all in action:

If you find yourself watching this video saying, "OK so why is a robot getting shot cool?" Well, here's the deal- iPhone games largely use completely canned animations for everything your character does from running, to jumping, to shooting. Quite a few iPhone games such as Stair Dismount [Free] use ragdoll animations which amounts to the game treating a model quite literally like a ragdoll and having it procedurally bounce off things with its limbs flailing to create more realistic death animations. Wikipedia does a great job of explaining how ragdoll physics works if you want to know more.

What BioReplicants does is sort of combine the two. With this technology, instead of how many games work, where you basically just shoot your opponents and the only feedback visual feedback you get is a little flourish around your crosshair until they finally just fall over dead, you'd see their standard shooting animation, modified in real time based on the forces your own bullets are exerting on them. If you look at the above video as "holy cow I can't even believe all the physics math going on behind the scenes" instead of "hey a robot getting shot," it can pretty easily blow your mind, especially considering that this physics engine apparently performs well enough to be feasible to use for iPhone games.

Like any tech demo, it all comes down to how the technology is eventually implemented in an actual game. Yes, the new BioReplicants stuff is cool, and I expect it to be downright amazing for people who have experience with working with 3D models and physics in video games, it's an uphill battle to make middleware like this interesting to your average gamer. Regardless, it's cool seeing what's technically possible, and I really look forward to seeing someone taking the BioReplicants engine and making something incredible.

For more demonstrations of BioReplicants in action, check out the Action = Reaction demo site.

  • Paul

    it is not as impressive as Euphoria (the engine used in Backbreaker iPhone, GTA, Read Ded, etc.). have a look:

    • Steve Lang

      I think Euphoria is used in console games, not iPhone. Backbreaker for iPhone uses pre-canned animations, Backbreaker for consoles uses Euphoria.

      • Tino

        Backbreaker iPhone has about 4-5 falling animations in it, depending on where you get it. Definitely canned stuff. It kind of defeated the purpose that Backbreaker was originally trying to make with it's console release.

  • OTrain13

    This will be pretty amazing if they can get it to run on iPhone hardware (it's unclear from the video what platform it's running on). Things like Euphoria are designed to run on multi-core, high-end hardware (like the PS3's SPUs and the Xbox 360). Of course, what I'd love to know is how much CPU time something like this is taking on an iOS device. Is there enough horsepower left over to do things like: control multiple characters, do collision detection and other physics calculations, handle AI and pathfinding, render environments and lighting, and then actually run game logic. Still, pretty impressive.

  • Paul

    Euphoria runs on the iPhone (a light version probably), did you try Backbreaker?

    • OTrain13

      I haven't tried Backbreaker, but their iTunes description says they use Morpheme and Endorphin (both are also NaturalMotion techs), not Euphoria. That's still pretty impressive, though.

    • Eduardotre

      they dont use euphoria

  • Overzero3 say that seeing this demo i thought of a Terminator game right away! The way the dummy keept walking despite beeing shot at...
    Still...i wonder how it would work on a full scale game, like Aralon or Infinity Blade!
    (sure Angry Birds would be just fine)

  • Adams Immersive

    Very neat. But it makes me sad to watch! That robot being so lifelike makes it all the more heartbreaking to see it forced to wear that goofy hat.

  • andrzej raczynski

    Not that I could do any better, but i'm not impressed by the guy ONLY falling down when he dies. I'd be impressed if those rockets kicked him back, make him fall down, and then he got up again and came back for more, or perhaps a few shots to the leg would make him fall down and then he would try to get up again.

    unless that falling down was 'locked' to death only for the purposes of the demonstration.

  • Tino

    holy cow I can't even believe all the physics math going on behind the scenes

  • TheLastPixelArtist

    Looks to me like standard ragdoll physics with limiters. A fun use of it, but nothing groundbreaking.

    Call me scrooge this xmas.

  • Slembcke

    I dunno, it looks like they are just using "servos" on the joints to make the physics match a desired animation. It seems fairly evident that the feet are permanently locked to the animation so he can't fall over or be knocked into the air until dead.

    The exact same thing has been done before (despite their claims), and it looks generally creepy when applied to human characters unless they are zombies or robots. It's not hard to do, it just generally doesn't look good which is why it's rarely done.

  • monster

    I'm not sure I understand. It says characters must NOT go limp as soon as they die, they should twitch and flail first, yet the robot in the video seems to just go limp and succumb to the force of the explosion.

  • Eduardotre

    Aves sucked

  • Cheawheelz

    backbreaker for iphone DOES NOT use canned animation. Get your facts straight people!

  • Mohammad Fauzi Taib

    hmm ...the robot reminds me of terminator ..haha