MIT GameLab OpenRelativity

Light travels at a phenomenal speed. It’s so fast that we’ll likely never experience the odd effects that happen when you approach that velocity. Well, not outside of a video game.

The Game Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just released its OpenRelativity physics engine for the Unity graphics kit that allows developers to adjust the speed of light in a way that is accurate to physics. In reality, light travels at nearly 300,000,000 meters per second. One of the fastest man-made objects ever, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe, only travels at 17,000 meters per second. Even at that imagination-shattering speed, the effects of relativity are so minuscule that they would only begin to register after several thousand years.

That’s where MIT’s OpenRelativity comes in. It allows developers to turn down the speed of light from 299,792,458 m/s to, let’s say, 2 m/s. At that sluggish pace, the effects of relativity are extreme.

Game Lab already used this physics engine to power its 2012 release, A Slower Speed of Light, which is available for free on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has gamers running around a world collecting objects. In A Slower Speed of Light, the faster players move their character, the more the environment reveals itself as more wavelengths of light warp into view.

MIT is opening the engine up to everyone now to see what other developers can do with this concept. Anyone can download OpenRelativity for free from the programming-resource website GitHub.

If your mind hurts, like mine does, then check out the video where MIT programmer Zach Sherin and designer Sonny Sidhu explain OpenRelativity: