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Voxel Fun: How to Play and Create with Voxels Online


What are Voxels and How are They Used in 3D Modeling?




If you are interested in 3D modeling, you may have heard of the term voxel. But what exactly is a voxel and how does it differ from other modeling methods? In this article, we will explain what voxels are, how they are rendered, how they store data, how they can be edited, and what are their advantages and disadvantages. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of voxels and their applications in various fields.


Introduction




A voxel is a volumetric pixel that represents a value on a regular grid in three-dimensional space. As with pixels in a 2D bitmap, voxels themselves do not typically have their position (i.e. coordinates) explicitly encoded with their values. Instead, rendering systems infer the position of a voxel based upon its position relative to other voxels (i.e., its position in the data structure that makes up a single volumetric image). In contrast to pixels and voxels, polygons are often explicitly represented by the coordinates of their vertices (as points). A direct consequence of this difference is that polygons can efficiently represent simple 3D structures with much empty or homogeneously filled space, while voxels excel at representing regularly sampled spaces that are non-h [assistant](#table) Article with HTML Formatting ```html What are Voxels and How are They Used in 3D Modeling?




If you are interested in 3D modeling, you may have heard of the term voxel. But what exactly is a voxel and how does it differ from other modeling methods? In this article, we will explain what voxels are, how they are rendered, how they store data, how they can be edited, and what are their advantages and disadvantages. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of voxels and their applications in various fields.




voxels



Introduction




A voxel is a volumetric pixel that represents a value on a regular grid in three-dimensional space. As with pixels in a 2D bitmap, voxels themselves do not typically have their position (i.e. coordinates) explicitly encoded with their values. Instead, rendering systems infer the position of a voxel based upon its position relative to other voxels (i.e., its position in the data structure that makes up a single volumetric image). In contrast to pixels and voxels, polygons are often explicitly represented by the coordinates of their vertices (as points). A direct consequence of this difference is that polygons can efficiently represent simple 3D structures with much empty or homogeneously filled space, while voxels excel at representing regularly sampled spaces that are non-homogeneous or filled with complex detail.


Voxels are used in various fields such as computer graphics, medical imaging, geospatial analysis, and gaming. Some common uses of voxels include:


  • Creating realistic terrain and landscapes with varying elevation, texture, and vegetation.



  • Simulating physical phenomena such as fluid dynamics, fire, smoke, and explosions.



  • Reconstructing 3D models from scanned data or images.



  • Generating procedural content such as caves, dungeons, and planets.



  • Rendering volumetric effects such as fog, clouds, and light scattering.



Voxel Rendering




Voxel rendering is the process of displaying voxels on a screen or display. There are different methods and techniques for voxel rendering depending on the type and format of the voxel data, the desired visual quality and performance, and the hardware capabilities. Some common methods and techniques for voxel rendering include:


  • Ray casting: This method involves tracing rays from the camera through each pixel on the screen and sampling the voxel data along the ray until a hit or an exit condition is met. The color and intensity of the pixel are determined by the sampled voxel value and optionally by lighting and shading calculations. Ray casting can produce high-quality images with realistic lighting effects, but it can also be computationally expensive and slow.



  • Splatting: This method involves projecting each voxel onto the screen as a point or a small square (splat) with a certain color and opacity. The splats are blended together to form the final image. Splatting can be faster than ray casting and can handle semi-transparent voxels, but it can also suffer from aliasing artifacts and low resolution.



  • Polygonization: This method involves converting the voxel data into a polygon mesh that can be rendered using conventional rasterization techniques. Polygonization can take advantage of hardware acceleration and existing graphics libraries, but it can also introduce errors and artifacts due to approximation and simplification.



The following table shows some examples of voxel rendering in different applications:



Application


Voxel Rendering Method


Example Image


Minecraft


Polygonization


No Man's Sky


Splatting


Dreams


Ray casting


Voxel Data


Voxel data is the information that is stored in each voxel or in the voxel grid as a whole. Voxel data can include various attributes such as color, opacity, density, material, normal, etc. Voxel data can also be scalar, vector, or tensor depending on the type and number of values per voxel. For example, a scalar voxel data can store a single value such as temperature, while a vector voxel data can store three values such as velocity.


There are different data structures and formats for voxel data depending on the application and the purpose of the data. Some common data structures and formats for voxel data include:


  • Regular grid: This is the simplest and most common data structure for voxel data. It consists of a fixed-size array of voxels arranged in a regular pattern. Each voxel has the same size and shape (usually cubic) and can be accessed by its index in the array. A regular grid can store any type of voxel data, but it can also waste a lot of memory if the voxel space is sparse or contains many empty or uniform voxels.



  • Sparse grid: This is a variation of the regular grid that uses a hash table or a tree structure to store only the non-empty or non-uniform voxels. Each voxel has a unique key or address that is used to locate it in the hash table or the tree. A sparse grid can save memory and improve performance for sparse or heterogeneous voxel spaces, but it can also introduce overhead and complexity for accessing and modifying the voxels.



  • Octree: This is a special type of sparse grid that uses a hierarchical tree structure to store the voxels. Each node in the tree represents a cubic region of space that can be subdivided into eight smaller regions (children nodes) if needed. Each leaf node in the tree contains a single voxel or a pointer to a voxel array. An octree can adapt to the level of detail and resolution of the voxel space, but it can also suffer from fragmentation and imbalance issues.



  • SVO: This stands for sparse voxel octree, which is an optimized version of the octree that uses a linear array to store the nodes instead of a tree structure. Each node in the array has a fixed size and contains information about its children nodes (such as their offsets and masks). An SVO can reduce memory usage and improve cache efficiency compared to an octree, but it can also require more complex algorithms for traversal and manipulation.



The following table shows some examples of voxel data formats in different applications:



Application


Voxel Data Format


Example Image


CT scan


Regular grid with scalar values representing density


Weather simulation


Sparse grid with vector values representing wind speed and direction


3D printing


Octree with scalar values representing material type


Ray tracing


SVO with color and opacity values representing surface properties


Voxel Editors


. Voxel editors are software tools that allow users to create and modify voxel models. Voxel editors can vary in their features and functions, but they typically provide the following capabilities:


voxel art


voxel engine


voxel editor


voxel terrain


voxel models


voxel games


voxel sculpting


voxel ray tracing


voxel animation


voxel generator


voxel world


voxel maker


voxel painting


voxel lighting


voxel software


voxel tutorial


voxel design


voxel rendering


voxel minecraft


voxel sandbox


voxel graphics


voxel studio


voxel pixel art


voxel shaders


voxel assets


voxel builder


voxel characters


voxel space


voxel magicavoxel


voxel resolution


voxel physics


voxel converter


voxel sprites


voxel rpg


voxel blender


voxel texture


voxel map


voxel mesh


voxel cloud


voxel optimization


voxel collision detecti


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