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.