REGENSDORF, Switzerland - X-Rite Inc. has entered into a long-term relationship with the University of Bonn that will establish a graduate school in the field of digital appearance. Additionally, X-Rite has acquired Sensible Graphics GmbH, a company providing digital appearance solutions.

"With these investments, X-Rite will extend its current leadership in the business of color into the field of appearance," said X-Rite Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Francis Lamy. "X-Rite Pantone dealt with aspects of appearance such as gloss and texture for years, but the work being done at the University of Bonn and at Sensible Graphics takes this to a whole new level of sophistication. The partnership with the Bonn team will enable X-Rite to develop a new core of technology that will enable the company to tackle high-value problems and serve markets a few orders of magnitude larger than current.”

Sensible Graphics has gained a reputation for its virtual renderings of vehicle bodies coated with pearlescent paints, upholstery made from patterned textiles and leathers, and other products with complex textures. The company has developed technology to process and compress data captured by a hemispherical array of digital cameras and light sources to create virtual prototypes with a look that is nearly indistinguishable from that of the real object. One of the early adopters of the process has been the automotive industry.

X-Rite has also signed a long-term research agreement with the University of Bonn and agreed to establish a graduate school in the field of digital appearance to be led by Dr. Reinhard Klein, head of the Computer Graphics Group at the university's Institute of Computer Science II. Klein and his group have played a key role as thought leaders in the field of computer graphics during the past 10 years, developing methods of modeling, rendering and compression for data-driven digital material appearance.

The new science and technology of modeling the physics of light-matter interaction enables the development of new types of instrumentation to holistically capture all appearance attributes; new technologies to formulate complex effect materials such as automotive paint, effect plastics or even contemporary complex (multi-layered and scattering) building materials and human skin; new accuracy and realism in rendering within the computing power (GPU) reach of mobile devices; and a categorization and classification system for materials based on their appearance attributes to enable search, retrieval and semantic referencing. All of this will lead to simplification of product design processes when dealing with complex materials.

"X-Rite will repurpose technologies developed over the last two decades by the computer graphics, entertainment and gaming industries for the benefit of its customers, with the aim to produce measurement-based, accurate, physically correct simulation of real-world materials," said Lamy.

“We strongly believe that the post-PC computing devices – tablets, mobile platforms and smart phones – will lead the redefinition of man-machine interaction and call for the digitalization of ‘sensorial’ experience (e.g. new and alternate forms of input devices, haptic devices, autostereoscopic displays). This creates a great opportunity for our initiative. Our ambition with the digitalization of appearance is to ride that megatrend by offering true electronic metaphors to ‘real world’ materials.”

X-Rite plans to expand the reach of the Pantone brand beyond its traditional relevance of communicating and specifying flat color into serving as a key standard for definition and categorization of complex digital materials. The PantoneLIVE digital color standards Digital Rights Management (DRM), which already delivers cloud-based color data, will be expanded in the coming years to manage and deliver appearance data.