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Touch painting in the dirt

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Which approach should I take for creating a game/app where the player, looking above the ground "canvas", would be able to "move" dirt (i.e. soil, or generally powder) around using fingers? I.e. similar to what you would achieve if you placed some dirt on a A4 white paper, and then move it around using palms/fingers?

I first thought it would be something similar to how painting apps work, but they more or less use a texture brush, and this doesn't seem to give me the desired effects. The ultimate experience would probably be to do it using a full-fledged physics particle system, but I am not sure a midrange device (Android, iOS) is capable of rendering something like that with satisfying detail in realtime? Admittedly, I am not trying to do anything incredibly realistic, but at least something that wouldn't look like moving "puzzles" around.

All other materials related to these search terms are merely using particles to simulate dirt flying around vehicle tires, so I am slightly stucked and I feel a nudge in the right direction might do wonders. Any algorithm/technology hints?

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This might give you some insight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0kyDKu8K-k

 

The above video is how the team at Disney simulating snow for their movie "Frozen". They get into some deep math and jargon. Is it required for dirt? Depends how you want your dirt to react.

 

I would think its a real-time visual stimulation that reacts differently depending the level of touch. Disney did a lot of tests so I suggest the same thing do a lot of scientific tests to get insight and build on top of that. They wind up seeing a lot of snow references and play a lot with snow just to be in attuned with snow.

 

I think the challenge is figuring out how your app is going to read the fingerprints and then tell the dirt to behave based on how deep you press your screen or smear around screen. Play with dirt and record your findings if you want to go realistic.

 

As with setting or building new technical demos, start simple and work your way up steadily.

Edited by warnexus

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