Realtime soft body physics with Finite Elements

I’ve had a play with implementing soft body physics as described in the books Physics-based animation and Game Programming Pearls. (BTW I’ve no idea what’s going on with the price of Physics Based Animation on Amazon - I have a hardback copy available if anyone wants to buy it at that price :D)


The demo scene is a wall of cubes, anchored at the base of the wall. Each cube is made up of six tetrahedra. A force is applied to the top-right node causing the nodes to move and the elements to deform. The stiffness of the blocks is relatively low, and I haven’t applied any damping, so the resulting behaviour is as if the wall is made of jelly.

The description of the algorithm is described pretty similarly in both books, but there are enough subtleties it’s useful to cross-reference between the books where things are unclear. My code most closely follows Physics Based Pearls.

The code makes heavy use of the Eigen matrix library, and its conjugate gradient solver. As the Eigen library makes heavy use of proxy objects via template expressions, I did get caught out more than a couple of times with assigning the result of a matrix operation to an auto-declared variable.

The rendering is done in OpenGL ES 3.0, so that it runs on desktop graphics supporting OpenGL ES (tested on Intel Skylake), and more recent Android phones (tested on an LG G4).

I used Visual Studio’s cross-platform solution template to create the solution, so the bulk of the code is common between the desktop and mobile, with only a thin platform specific layer.

The code runs fluidly on the desktop with 192 elements and 90 nodes, but runs an order of magnitude slower on mobile.

Code is available on github: