Vortex Dynamics' realistic simulations and fast prototyping of mobile robots helps reduce both the time and hardware required to develop your mobile robotics applications. This allows you to focus on what really counts: more advanced results for your robotics projects.
With Vortex Dynamics’ contact dynamics, you can simulate not only the mechanical system, but also its interaction in the operating environment—including terrain, water, obstacles, vision systems, grasping, and more.
Perform tests that would otherwise be impractical or impossible in an analog test environment, such as evolutionary development, robotic surgery, or simulation within dangerous or hard-to-replicate environments, including mines, space, nuclear waste facilities, and natural disaster sites.
Vortex Dynamics allows you to adjust to changes in design, test more options more rapidly, and simply arrive at better solutions.
A Complete Range of Capabilities
Design testing and mobility study
Engineering simulators for robot and equipment design; semi-autonomous and autonomous robots; autonomous motion and path planning (obstacle avoidance); controller design with software-in-the-loop (SIL), MATLAB, and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL)
Wheeled and tracked locomotion
Realistic wheeled and tracked robots based on engineering design parameters—incorporate modifiable track, tire, and terrain properties using common vehicle engineering data models, and deploy electric drives, multiple tracks, rigid or flexible tracks, articulated chassis, and a number of industry-standard tire-terrain models
Interactive environment modeling
Extensive land, marine, subsea, and planetary environment modeling—whether you’re simulating Mars, the ocean depths, or a battlefield, Vortex provides the virtual situational challenges for your robot: simulation of buoyancy and hydrodynamics; physically based visual conditions such as smoke, dust, and fog; simulation of bulk materials in motion like earth-moving, soil displacement, and compaction due to terrain interaction
Humanoid robots and robotic creatures
Simulation of mechanical systems; dynamics of walking, crawling, swimming, and other methods of locomotion; grasping simulation for humanoid hands and other specialized grippers
For robots and robotic or remotely operated vehicles (autonomous and tethered); training simulators integrated with control systems; training scenarios with interaction within simulated operating environments
Vortex Dynamics' ease of integration means you can get your research projects up and running quickly.
Easy integration with development tools such as Python and MATLAB®/Simulink® means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you make changes in the simulation environment.
Robotic controllers developed within MATLAB can be run on both real and simulated robots with equivalent results, saving significant system-level development time and prototype expense.
You can integrate simulations from multiple domains, such as hydraulics and electrical models, to create a single system-level model.
Vortex Dynamics can also integrate with complex hardware systems such as haptic devices, motion platforms, and interfaces to real machine and control systems.
Vortex Dynamics’ fully stocked C++ API covers an exceptionally wide range of simulation needs, features speedy integration with in-house 3D visual systems, and allows you to configure and extend Vortex Dynamics for special applications.
It is also easy to deploy your applications built on Vortex to multiple platforms through our distributable libraries available on Windows®, Linux®, and Mac OS®.
Accuracy You Can Rely On
When your research is on the line, you need tools you can trust.
Vortex Dynamics reduces both the time and effort required for test bed/simulation integration. That’s because Vortex Dynamics plugs into MATLAB/Simulink out of the box, and integrates seamlessly with your technical infrastructure. You can run robotic controllers developed within MATLAB on both real and simulated robots with equivalent results, saving you significant time and resources.
Reduce the complexity of robotics systems engineering by simulating mechanical dynamics in a complete operating environment—meaning you can conduct systems-level testing and complete controls development.
Vortex Dynamics meets the highest standards for technical validation, with a testing framework that allows performance to be consistently measured for purposes of regression testing, verification, and validation. Well-defined outputs allow comparison with mathematical models of behavior, data from field measurements, and project requirements.
Vortex Dynamics also provides developers with an interactive test environment where mechanisms can be edited and tested before deployment in a larger simulation environment.
Find out why our clients are selecting Vortex Dynamics:
Here's how we've helped just a few of our clients. For more information on these stories, or to obtain additional client references, contact us at any time.
FMC Technologies Schilling Robotics is the leading supplier of subsea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), manipulator systems and subsea control systems. They have an impeccable reputation as a supplier of robotic products, primarily for the subsea oil and gas industry.
When it came time to build a next generation training solution, they came to CM Labs. The result is an ultra-realistic ROV pilot training system that builds real operations skills and reduces project risk.
Vortex has become an industry standard in offshore and subsea simulation for operator training and virtual planning and test. It is the most widely used dynamics simulation engine in the industry and is the core of many successful projects.
The FMC Schilling Robotics ROV simulator provides the highest fidelity simulation of ROV hydrodynamics, propulsion system, tethers, manipulators and on-board sensors available.
The simulator is fully integrated with ROV control system to provide the next best thing to piloting the actual ROV. In addition to emulating precision operations with manipulators, the ROV Simulator features sonar, cameras, and transponders for the most-realistic interactions imaginable.
Instructors have full control of a feature rich training environment that allows them to adjust environment conditions, such as current and visibility, as well as creating fault conditions and challenges for the student.
These are exciting times for space exploration. It's entering a new era characterized by deeper space activity, greater surface-based focus, more human-robotic collaboration, and broader end-user participation. To achieve this, ever more capable tools for mission planning, robotic design, operations, and data management are required, with a growing interest in integrated end-to-end systems.
CM Labs was recently awarded the contract for "Exploration Core – Exploration Surface Mobility (ESM) Simulation" from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The project develops the capability for the virtual testing of robotic concept vehicles and simulation of rover mission scenarios.
It integrates rover dynamic simulation and simulating the interaction with the environment to predict performance. The simulation platform uses plug-in software technology developed for the CSA's Symphony mission planning environment.
The Vortex plug-in is flexible, allowing different rovers and different rover configurations to be easily integrated into a single simulation environment.
The safety of life is one of the most important issues in the field of C-IED work.
In the last decades various tools and aids have been introduced to support the work of EOD/IEDD personnel. One of the most powerful tools among those are the EOD/IEDD robots.
They have been already used in Iraq to dispose of improvised explosive devices, and nowadays a number of EOD robots are in deployment in countries throughout the world.
The robot hardware is expensive, and the number of devices is limited. Often the device used for operations is also used for training purposes.
In reality, training for different operational situations can only rarely be performed--if at all--due to financial issues, time pressures, or lack of availability. The application of virtual training can help to circumvent these practical limitations.
EADS in Maching, Germany are using Vortex as the physics simulation engine for their EOD robotics training simulation application.
Vortex was selected after a review of many open source and commercial physics engines, because it was the most stable and most accurate. EADS recently published their results from this simulation work at ITEC 2010 in London. The conclusions were that the simulation behavior of Vortex and the real performance of the robot were strongly correlated.
To download a copy of the EADS ITEC paper, click here.
Download the case study: Vortex Drives EADS Robot Simulator for the Belgian Army
The NASA Lunar Micro Rover (LMR) mission is to deploy two micro-rovers to the moon by 2012 constructed from a family of interoperable modular subsystems capable of supporting a variety of technical objectives such as supporting Micro-Payloads, Lunar Exploration, Extended Deployment, and Tele-operation.
The NASA Ames Research Center is currently developing LMRs to address the need for an economical multi-dimension robotic tool that can be easily assembled, repaired, and customized for interstellar missions.
As part of this project, a simulator is being developed for mission simulation and rover testing by the LMR team. Students involved in the project will also be able to access the simulator to test drive the LMR.
The simulator is being built with Vortex to provide the necessary real‐time physical effects required. Read more information on the NASA Lunar Micro-Rover Simulation project here.
Battelle Memorial worked with CM Labs to simulate IED search-and-destroy robotics with highly realistic robot-environment interactions, with complete simulation of robotic drive systems, sensors, and manipulators.
CM Labs developed the initial simulation prototype, and further developed advanced cable system simulation capabilities to fulfill the client's requirement for high-fidelity control tether simulation.
CM Labs' Vortex technology was used to simulate the Talon Mk 2 Mod 0, RONS Mk 3 Mod 0, PackBot Mk 1 Mod 0, and the All-Purpose Remote Transport System (ARTS).
The Institute of Mathematical Machines (IMM, Warsaw, Poland) is designing EOD robot simulations in the context of the European Union's humanitarian demining TIRAMISU project (the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no. 284747, project title: Toolbox Implementation for Removal of Anti-personnel Mines and Submunitions).
The IMM was already familiar with Vortex Dynamics, and determined that it was the ideal toolkit for handling the complexities of EOD robotics design, including:
- simulating mobility over different surfaces such as grass, mud, and rocks,
- detecting anti-personnel bombs via sensor or remote operation,
- digging with specialized equipment attached to the robot arm, and
- grasping of hazardous materials and transporting to a designated location.
Presently, the IMM is using Vortex as the core rigid-body simulation software to develop an augmented reality (AR) system that will enhance training for operation of remotely operated mine action machinery.
Bruce Power is Canada's first private nuclear power generator and a vital part of Ontario’s energy future. Its 2,300-acre site on the shores of Lake Huron houses the Bruce A and B generating stations, which each hold four CANDU reactors.
Six of those units are currently operational and produce more than 4,700 megawatts, which is enough to power one in five hospitals, homes, and schools in Ontario.
Refueling of CANDU reactors involves operation of refueling heads, transported by carriages and maneuvered into position in front of the calandria tubes by a bridge lift.
The machines are simple in principle but highly complex in practice. As a new generation of operators comes on board, Bruce Power has a huge need for rapid and efficient training. The goal of reducing training time from 18 months down to 12 months is a challenge only achievable with the help of simulation-based training.
Bruce Power turned to CM Labs to build a high-fidelity visual simulation of the fuel handling mechanical systems. The project involves the development of the environment representing the fuel route and the simulation of the fuel handling components operated from the main control room. The system will be integrated with a replica control room and the existing reactor control room simulator.
The Bruce Power fuel handling simulator will allow operators to train on operations tasks such as new fuel and irradiated fuel transfer and storage; fueling machine head operations and reactor bridge and carriage operation.
Vortex Selected by Harbin Institute of Technology's Research Center of Aerospace Mechanism and Control
Vortex Selected by Harbin Institute of Technology's Research Center of Aerospace Mechanism and Control
Vortex has been selected by the Research Center of Aerospace Mechanism and Control (RCAMC) in the State Key Laboratory of robot technology systems at Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT). RCAMC has deployed Vortex for wheeled mobile robot simulation for enhanced rover motion. Vortex’s advanced ability to accurately simulate the dynamics of wheels, soil, and ground interactions was a key to its selection. RCAMC’s rover dynamics simulations will be used to improve real-time motion planning in soft soil and rough terrain.
Vortex was selected by the Barrow Neurological Institute at St.Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona for the research and development of a computerized planning tool for spine surgery. The objective is to develop a desktop application that interfaces to a haptic device to perform virtual surgery on the spine.
The main components of the application include patient specific set-up with 3D models, use of a haptic device to manipulate vertebrae and surgical tools, place hardware, and final export results for analysis. It involves the real-time simulation of the spine structure and ligaments as well as shaping and drilling of bone surfaces.
The project will be completed over a 3 year period in close cooperation with Barrow. Vortex will be used to simulate the skeleton and ligaments, drilling and shaping processes as well as the insertion and positioning of hardware. Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, is internationally recognized as a leader in neurological research and patient care.
Barrow treats patients with a wide range of neurological conditions, including brain and spinal tumors, cerebrovascular conditions, and neuromuscular disorders. Barrow's clinicians and researchers are devoted to providing excellent patient care and finding better ways to treat neurological disorders.
Cassidian uses Vortex as the dynamics simulation engine for its EOD robotics training simulation application.
Cassidian selected Vortex after a review process comparing a wide range of open source and commercial physics engines, citing the "much higher accuracy" of the Vortex engine, and its robust, stable performance as being among the qualities that set Vortex apart from the alternatives.
It's no secret that Vortex excels at simulation of complex real-world robotics applications. That's why organizations like Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) employ Vortex for crucial physics and behaviour inputs.
In a recent project, DRDC deployed Vortex for robotic and sensor simulations that aid the design work of its unmanned Shape-shifting Tracked Robotic Vehicle (STRV).
Initially the Vortex team developed a MATLAB/Simulink interface for simulated robots within Vortex, which was extended to simulate the Bumblebee and Digiclops camera sensors utilized by the STRV.
Robotic controllers developed within MATLAB can be run on both the real and simulated robots with equivalent results, saving the DRDC significant development time and prototype costs.
This work is part of the Autonomous Land Systems (ALS) project at DRDC Suffield that undertakes research into the development and deployment of unique robotic vehicles for use by the Canadian Forces.
In an earlier contract, CM Labs provided physics-based vehicle dynamics for the ALS project.
Click here for more STRV details and images.
The Vortex-developed AnimatLab project at Georgia State University is a simulation software environment that models how the body and nervous system dynamically interact in a virtual physical world where all the relevant neural and physical parameters can be observed and manipulated. The body is situated in a virtual physical world governed by Vortex.
The animat's movements are under neural control as it responds to simulated physical and experimental stimuli. The autonomous behavior of the animat appears in 3D alongside the time-series responses of any designated set of neural or physical parameters.
Using Vortex, the University of Maryland (UMD) in collaboration with Energetics Technology Center (ETC) has successfully shown that a vehicle learning its own behaviors in a high-fidelity physical simulation environment is a viable alternative to manually programming vehicle behavior.
In research conducted with the Simulation-Based System Design Laboratory at UMD, the UMD-ETC team demonstrated that such a vehicle can be rapidly re-trained for a change in mission or engineering specifications.
UMD's Dr. Satyandra K. Gupta says that "the requirements for high simulation performance led the group to use the commercially available Vortex simulation library, developed by CM Labs."
"Because the simulation environment also allows vehicles to be driven by human operators," he continues, "experts can verify the accuracy of the simulation, teach behaviors by demonstration, and compete against the computer-controlled vehicle."
According to Dr. Gupta, continuing work will focus on applying the same techniques and tools to a larger vehicle platform with more complex behaviors.
For more details, download Automated Behavior Generation for Unmanned Ground Vehicles Using Virtual Environments.
At the University of Tuebingen's Department of Computer Science, the Cognitive Modeling research team led by Professor Martin Butz is using Vortex to help develop cognitive "bodyspaces": interactive spatial representations of the body (or rather, simulated body-like structures) within its environment.
Professor Butz's team is investigating methods of learning such representations, shaping them to a maximally behaviorally suitable extent, and actually triggering flexible, adaptive, self-motivated goal-directed behavior within these representations.
The team is also investigating how more conceptual representations can develop out of these spatial representations, and how behavioral control is mediated by these representations.
"We will use Vortex to develop 'cognitive', highly 'adaptive' robotic systems," says Professor Butz.
"We also want to study developmental aspects, e.g., with the system learning its own body kinematics (and possibly also its dynamics), and then learning progressively more about how to manipulate its environment—the main aim being to model cognition and cognitive development."
The Imager Lab in the Department of Computer Science at UBC is using Vortex to develop state-of-the-art methods for controlling the motions of physics-based character simulations.
Vortex will be used to simulated the full-body dynamics of human motions, including walking, jumping, running, and a variety of other motions that are highly dynamic in nature or that involve dynamic interactions with the environment.
The goal is to develop models of motion that are significantly more general than what can be obtained from using motion capture data alone.
Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohoku University is dedicated to the research and development of robotic systems for space science and exploration missions.
The lab recently selected Vortex to aid their research which is focused on the mechanics and control of lunar exploration rovers. Technologies for remote planetary exploration (such as mapping and localization in the unstructured environment, rough terrain mobility, and teleoperation with time delay) can also be applied to the robots for search and rescue missions.
The Space Robotics Laboratory joins a growing community of space robotics researchers using Vortex, including the Canadian Space Agency, Harbin Institute of Technology, NASA Ames, Shanghai JiaoTong University, and Beijing Institute of Technology.
The College of Mechanical Science and Engineering at China's Jilin University has selected Vortex for teaching and research.
Vortex is also being applied to VR simulations of rovers and heavy equipment. Important to their selection criteria were CM Labs' level of support and quality of technical documentation.
After a thorough evaluation of several physics engines, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has selected Vortex for marine research. Vortex is being applied to numerical simulation of floaters in Arctic ice fields.
Several engines were evaluated for accuracy, collision performance, friction modelling, computational efficiency, fluid simulation capabilities, and fracture modelling features before NTNU’s Department of Civil and Transport Engineering chose Vortex. Also important to their criteria were technical documentation quality and the vendor's level of support.
NTNU selected Vortex since it was one of the most accurate engines, performed well, and provided the best technical support.
CM Labs welcomes Changsha University of Science & Technology (China) as a new member of our academic partner program.
Professor Li Yan of the Aerospace Department will employ Vortex in dynamic simulations to study Mars vehicles/rovers.
Vortex’s advanced ability to accurately simulate the dynamics of wheels, soil, and ground interactions was a key to its selection. Several research organizations are adopting Vortex for rover-related research including the CSA, HIT, Tohoku U, SJTU, and BIT.
The University of Western Ontario (Canada) is the latest university to select Vortex for their research. The School of Kinesiology will use Vortex in research on the effects of whole-body vibration on heavy equipment operators which can be a significant workplace risk factor for injury.
Vortex will drive the dynamics of industrial vehicles over varying terrains on a robotic platform to simulate the accurate motion and vibration impacting the operator seat.
CM Labs has entered into a collaborative research partnership with the University of Victoria with support from NSERC.
The project, led by Professor Daniela Constantinescu, will investigate novel control techniques to add stable high-fidelity haptic feedback to dynamic virtual environments using Vortex.
The NSERC Engage Grants Program fosters the development of new research partnerships between academic researchers and companies.
With support from this grant and CM Labs, Professor Constantinescu's lab will develop techniques to provide 6DOF haptic feedback at the fixed 1 kHz frequency to operators who manipulate virtual objects simulated in real-time using Vortex at 60 Hz.
CM Labs is pleased to welcome the Institute of Mathematical Machines (IMM), Warsaw, Poland as a Vortex client. The IMM is an R&D institution of the Polish Ministry of Economy.
The IMM's Modeling and Simulation Research Team selected Vortex for research projects involving underwater unmanned vehicles and mobile robots simulators. Their work explores methods and systems of e-training, designed for obtaining operation skills by trainees, based on computer simulation with use of 3D graphics and computer games
The Faculty of Computers and Information at Cairo University recently established a VR and Graphics Simulation Lab and selected Vortex for their research. Vortex is used in teaching and student VR/simulation projects.
The flexibility and realism of Vortex were critical to the lab's decision as well as the ability to easily integrate Vortex will into their existing software modules.
CM Labs and Makemedia recently partnered to develop a lunar vehicle simulator based on the NASA Lunar Electric Rover (LER). This small pressurized rover is about the size of a pickup truck (with 12 wheels) and can house two astronauts for up to 14 days with sleeping and sanitary facilities. It is designed to require little or no maintenance, be able to travel thousands of miles climbing over rocks and up 40 degree slopes during its 10 year life exploring the harsh surface of the moon.
Vortex was used to simulate the LER vehicle dynamics as well as its interaction in a virtual lunar outpost. Makemedia provided the virtual lunar landscape models as well as 3D models for the LER and outpost structures. Makemedia's broad visualization industry experience and meticulous attention to detail allowed Vortex to produce a realistic simulation of LER operations with stunning visuals of the NASA lunar outpost. The simulation features rover driving as well as using the LER excavator to dig regolith on the Moon's surface. New developments in Vortex deformable terrain simulation are featured in the simulator.
The computer graphics lab at McGill University will be utilizing Vortex in the Graphics, Animation and New meDia (GRAND) research project MOTION. The MOTION project, investigating measurement and modelling of human motor control, is led by Professor Michiel van de Panne at UBC and co-led by Professor Paul Kry at McGill.
The research brings together investigators with significant expertise in computer animation, computer vision, games, interactive storytelling, physics-based simulation, robotics, machine learning, and perception. The goal of the MOTION project is to develop and exploit new models of whole-body human motion with application to animation, games, e-commerce, interfaces for new media, modelling and tracking for health care applications, and entertainment robotics.
Sheldon Andrews, a Ph.D. student at McGill, is using Vortex as a platform to develop novel grasp synthesis techniques for physically based virtual hand models. The approach uses machine learning to generate robust control policies that allow for object grasping and manipulation in a dynamical simulation. The Vortex VxGrasp toolkit has been an essential component of this work.
For more information on the McGill project, visit the MOTION Website.
Vortex is the basis for a soil simulation framework developed in cooperation with the Virtual Reality faculty at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany. The module will be used as part of a VR application in the faculty's CAVE for the simulation of highly plastic soil deformations, which occur, for example, during excavation.
Vortex was integrated with OpenSG and RWTH's Flip VR display system with stereo optics and DTrack head tracking. A Phantom Omni force feedback haptic device is used for interaction with the objects.
The research behind this project, Soil deformation models for real-time simulation: A hybrid approach by Daniel Holz, Thomas Beer, and Torsten Kuhlen, was presented at the 6th Workshop on Virtual Reality Interaction and Physical Simulation VRIPHYS 09.
Vortex includes the following dynamics, collision detection, and solver features:
- Full collision response and reaction based on a robust and highly optimized dynamics library, with minimal CPU overhead for calculations
- State-of-the-art method of rigid-body dynamics calculation: Vortex resolves important issues involving contact physics and kinematic loops, allowing objects to be easily modified, extended, assembled and disassembled
- Assign object properties such as mass, inertia, center of mass, either manually or automatically based on their geometry
- Define material interaction properties such as friction, stiffness, damping, stiction, and restitution in physically meaningful units
- All object and interaction properties can be modified at runtime
- Support for multiple friction models ranging from frictionless to scalable approximation of Coulomb friction enables users to balance efficiency with accuracy
- Anisotropic friction allows objects to have different friction properties for different directions
- Extremely stable stacking of objects
- Choose between multiple solvers optimized for precision versus speed
- Scalable contact response capable of simulating large numbers of objects in real-time
- Kinematic and dynamic constraints, including multi-body constraints that can be added, removed and reconfigured at runtime
- Multiple constraint types such as ball and socket, hinge (revolute joint), spring, and distance; various vehicle suspension constraints such as universal, prismatic, screw, and gears; and a number of advanced constraints allowing users to precisely control relative linear and angular degrees of freedom
- Constraint degrees of freedom can be motorized, locked, or limited – all with or without compliance
- Fluid interaction supporting buoyancy, drag and Magnus forces
- Fast and accurate object collision detection between large numbers of objects and the terrain, with minimal CPU overhead
- Geometrical primitives, terrains and complex polygon meshes. Vortex computes contact points, normals and penetration, with support for fast-moving objects, time-of-impact, and distance
- Optimized for speed: objects are automatically separated into groups – objects that are close to each other and need to be checked for collision or interference versus objects that are far apart and do not need these checks
- Efficient handling of large numbers of objects, and optimized object insertion and removal
- Collision pairs can be disabled for maximum user control over specific behaviours
- Level of detail: objects can be represented by actual geometry for accuracy or by simplified geometry for speed
- Sensor callbacks allow detection of geometry intersection without causing collision response
- Event handling: persistent user-information for colliding pairs allows users to schedule events based on collision or separation
- Support for a large number of collision types such as geometric primitives, composite object, plane, and heightfield
- Grasp analysis tool for computing the quality of a grasp given a set of finger contacts on an object
- Multiple solver support: includes an accurate solver that uses a Linear Complementarity Problem (LCP) solution, which resolves many difficulties inherent in traditional recursive solvers, and a fast, more compliant iterative solver for very large systems
- Allows users to easily build models – and modify constraints, collision and part properties – at runtime
- Support for multi-core (parallel) processing by solving groups of rigid bodies, each in its own thread. Grouping can be overridden by users in order to break up large problems into smaller ones for efficiency
Vortex includes a specialized module for hand-modeling/grasping applications.
This module determines grasp quality for a collection of contacts between a manipulator or gripper and target objects. It provides an easy and effective method to model robotics grasping, as well as heavy equipment behavior like grappling claws.
Grasp quality is based on a six-degree-of-freedom wrench set generated by the grasp, and the module includes numerous options to change the reference coordinate system, rescale torques, add friction, and more.