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Published October 2003
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2,405,382
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The heart of any system that simulates the physical interaction between objects is collision detection-the ability to detect when two objects have come into contact. This system is also one of the most difficult aspects of a physical simulation to implement correctly, and invariably it is the main consumer of CPU cycles. Practitioners, new to the field or otherwise, quickly discover that the attempt to build a fast, accurate, and robust collision detection system takes them down a long path fraught with perils and pitfalls unlike most they have ever encountered. Without in-depth knowledge and understanding of the issues associated with engineering a collision detection system, the end of that path is an abyss that has swallowed many a good programmer!
Gino van den Bergen's new book is the story of his successful journey down that path. The outcome is his well-known collision detection system, the SOftware Library for Interference Detection (SOLID). Along the way, he covers the topics of vector algebra and geometry, the various geometric primitives of interest in a collision system, the powerful method of separating axes for the purposes of intersection testing, and the equally powerful Gilbert-Johnson-Keerthi (GJK) algorithm for computing the distance between convex objects. But this book provides much more than a good compendium of the ideas that go into building a collision system. The curse of practical computational geometry is floating-point arithmetic. Algorithms with straightforward implementations when using exact arithmetic can have catastrophic failures in a floating-point system. Specifically, intersection and distance algorithms implemented in a floating-point system tend to fail exactly in the most important case in a collision system-when two objects are just touching. Great care must be taken to properly handle floating-point round off errors. Gino's ultimate accomplishment in this book is his presentation on how to correctly implement the GJK distance algorithm in the presence of single-precision floating-point arithmetic. And what better way to illustrate this than with a case study, the final chapter on the design and implementation of SOLID.
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