3D Terrain Modeling for iOS

by Staff

Independent programmer Andrew Garrison has released Touch Island 1.0 for iOS, his 3D modeling and rendering app that enables the user to create a photo-realistic island surrounded by ocean. Sculpting mountains, valleys, and lakes is accomplished using a single finger. An auto-color function assigns shading by altitude, or color may be applied manually. The angle and altitude of sunlight, and camera angle are adjustable, and final rendering with textures and reflections is done using ray-tracing. The finished creation may be saved as a photo, and uploaded so that others may view it, rate it, and comment on it.

Touch Island

Powering the latest Hollywood special effects movies is CGI (computer generated imagery), notorious for its cost in money and computer cycles. The process generally entails the construction of 3D wire-frame models, which are then covered with texture maps specifying color, pattern, smoothness, opacity, reflectivity, specularity, etc. The final step is rendering, where the computer produces the finished picture of the object within predetermined atmospheric and lighting conditions. Mathematically, models with sharp edges are easier to create than those with curves, and natural, randomized surfaces like terrain are the most difficult. Similarly, of all the rendering algorithms for realizing a photo from a wire-frame, ray-tracing is among the most accurate and computationally intensive.

It is therefore noteworthy that Touch Island running on iOS incorporates both simplified terrain modeling and ray-tracing, and uses only seconds to create a final render. Clearly, the app is not intended for film production, but rather to give the user a sense of the unlimited, world-building power afforded by the latest modeling and rendering technology. With its highly intuitive, touch screen interface and tools, Touch Island is appropriate for users of all ages ready to experience the unlimited possibilities of creating their own private island.

Employing vector graphics, the app displays smoothly on all iOS device displays, independent of size and resolution. Touch Island is used in the landscape mode, and consists of a work area with tool icons below and to the left. On launch in the View mode the user sees displayed a circular, featureless landmass in an ocean, and a horizon with sky above, rendered with relatively simple flat shading. A fingertip can rotate the land mass and alter the angle of view from full side (0 degrees) to directly overhead (90 degrees). Choosing the Center button defaults to an isometric (0 X, 0 Y, 45 Z) view, convenient for modeling.

Feature Highlights:

  • Sculpt a beautiful island in seconds
  • Photograph it and share it with friends
  • Create beaches, mountains, valleys, and lakes
  • Smoothly blend beaches into grass
  • Smoothly blend green mountainsides into snow-capped peaks
  • Sculpt any terrain imaginable
  • Use the auto-color function or take control manually
  • Upload the final island so other people can view it, rate it, and comment on it
  • Features powerful terrain modeling
  • Reveal smooth, photo-realistic detail with ray-tracing render function

The Terrain tool allows the user to create contiguous hills and mountain by using a painting gesture across the landmass. Icons and sliders afford complete control over convexity, concavity, smoothness, radius, and depth. The Color tool permits precise coloring of all beaches, lakes, mountains, valleys, cliffs, meadows, etc. A universal color-picker offers millions of shades, and radius and opacity sliders control the application of color. Particularly innovative is the app's auto-color function that automatically applies coloring to all geographical features based on their altitude above sea level. Colors employed and the four blending color zones are user controllable. Having completed the modeling and shading of their island, users may use sliders to adjust the sun's angle and altitude to produce the desired photographic effect. Touching the Picture icon renders the scene using the powerful ray-tracing algorithm, revealing subtle color gradations, clouds, ripples of water, irregular terrain, shadows, and reflections.

Andrew Garrison, programmer said:

Quoting  begins Terrain modeling, shading, and ray-tracing are computationally intensive tasks usually performed by high-end desktop and server computers ... It has been very fulfilling to bring these capabilities to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, so that anyone can play with the latest tools used by CGI professionals. Quoting  ends

Device Requirements and Pricing: iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch ; iOS 3.1.2 or later ; 5.0 MB - Touch Island 1.0 is $2.99 (USD)

GO Andrew Garrison's Touch Island 1.0
GO Touch Island YouTube Video

Andrew Garrison is an independent application developer whose passion for the Mac platform is exceeded only by his aim to create challenging games, with a focus on customer satisfaction. Based in Glen Carbon, Illinois, Andrew works as an embedded software engineer. Copyright (C) 2010 Andrew Garrison. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPad, and iPod are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.