Inner Sphere Trees for 6-DOF Haptic Rendering


Inner Sphere Trees () are a novel geometric data structure for approximate collision detection at haptic rates. They support different kinds of queries, namely, proximity queries and a new method for interpenetration computation, the penetration volume in one unified algorithm. In addition, the application does not need to know in advance which situation exists between the pair of objects.


The penetration volume is related to the amount of water being displaced by the overlapping region and, thus, corresponds to a physically motivated force. It allows us to define a novel penalty-based collision response scheme that provides continuous forces and torques which are applicable to physically-based simulations as well as to haptic rendering scenarios.

The main idea is to bound objects from the inside with a set of non-overlapping spheres. Based on such sphere packings, we construct an "inner bounding volume hierarchy" by extendeding an AI clustering algorithm.

The results show performance at haptic rates both for proximity and penetration volume queries for models consisting of hundreds of thousands of polygons.

Sphere Packing


In our current implementation of the inner sphere trees, we use a simple heuristic to fill the objects densly with spheres. It is based on discrete distance fields in combination with a greedy sphere creation algorithm that offers a good trade-off between accuracy and speed in practice.

Building the IST

Based on the sphere packing, we create a bounding volume hierarchy. To do so, we use a recursive top-down wrapped hierarchy approach. The partitioning of the spheres is based on a clustering algorithm called batch neural gas with magnification control (i.e., larger spheres get larger weights).


In the above two screenshots, you can see two levels of the hierarchy (left = first level, right = second level); spheres of the same color belong to the same cluster and, thus, to the same sub-tree.

Contact Forces


Forces and torques are computed for every pair of overlapping spheres individually. This results in continuous penalty forces and torques, provided the paths of the objects is continuous. This is essential for stable physically-based simulations and haptic rendering.


The ISTs will be integrated into the CollDet-Library in the near future.

Until then, you can send us an email , and maybe we can send you an intermediate version.



Click on the pictures to watch the videos.


This video gives an overview over the ISTs (no audio)

Proximity Queries

Two armadillos Two cows

Penetration Volume

Dragons Screw drivers Two torsos

ISTs in Haptic Environments

Multibody simulation with haptic support Another haptic scene

This work was partially supported by DFG grant ZA292/1-1 and the research project, funded by the Federal Minstry of Education and Research (BMBF) grant Avilus / 01 IM 08 001 U.