Virtual environments (VE) are becoming a popular way to interact with virtual objects in several applications such as design, training, planning, etc. Physics simulation engines (PSE) used in games development can be used to increase the realism in virtual environments (VE) by enabling the virtual objects with dynamic behavior and collision detection. There exist several PSE available to be integrated with VE, each PSE uses different model representation methods to create the collision shape and compute virtual object dynamic behavior. The performance of physics based VEs is directly related to the PSE ability and its method to represent virtual objects. This paper analyzes different freely available PSEs — Bullet and the two latest versions of PhysX (v2.8 and 3.1) — based on their model representation algorithms, and evaluates them by performing various assembly tasks with different geometry complexity. The evaluation is based on the collision detection performance and their influence on haptic-virtual assembly process. The results have allowed the identification of the strengths and weaknesses of each PSE according to its representation method.

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