We present a new representation that allows a rigid-body dynamic simulation to be described as a set of “causal-processes.” A causal-process is an interval of time during which both the behavior and the causes of the behavior remain qualitatively uniform. The representation consists of acyclic, directed graphs that are isomorphic to the flow of causality through the kinematic chain. Forces are the carriers of causality in this domain; thus they are central to the representation. We use this representation to compute the purposes of the geometric features on the parts of a device. To compute the purpose of a particular feature, we simulate the behavior of the device with and without the feature present. We then re-represent the two simulations as causal-processes and identify any causal-processes that exist in one simulation but not the other. Such processes are indicative of the feature's purpose. Because they are already causal descriptions of behavior, they can be directly translated into natural language descriptions of the feature's purpose. We have implemented our approach in a computer program called ExplainIT II.
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