This is a post by Aaron Shaw on PTC site.

Add realistic shading to your model in Creo 3.0 by enabling Ambient Occlusion. Ambient occlusion simulates the effect of light on a model by shading areas that are obstructed by other parts of the model.

So, if some geometry would naturally cast a shadow on another piece of geometry in real life, the shadow will appear in your model too.

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