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Turning to Environment Mapping
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What I was trying to accomplish with specular lighting was to give the object some shiny spots where the light from the scene reflected off the surface. Environment mapping is a computer graphics technique I used in some of my past games to get similar shiny effects, so maybe I could use it here as well to good effect. An environment map is a texture that contains information about the scene surrounding an object. This texture is then applied to a mesh in such a way as if it is reflecting the scene around it. You don t want to make the object a perfect mirror, but you can encode the bright spots from the lights around us in the environment map and then combine them somehow on the object to give the impression of shiny spots. Environment mapping is a great technique that creates visually interesting scenes with very little overhead or extra work on the developer s part. One of the main drawbacks of environment mapping is that they capture the surrounding scene from a single location, so moving objects would have incorrect reflections, or the environment map itself would have to be recomputed in real time, which can be quite expensive. Fortunately, in the case of Flower Garden, the pot with flowers is at a fixed location. The camera can change positions, and the flowers can move in the wind, but they aren t changing positions enough to be a problem, so environment mapping seems like a perfect solution. In many kinds of graphics hardware, this can be a really easy solution. All you have to do is provide an environment map, turn on the environment-mapping mode, and off you go. Unfortunately, there was a snag in my plan: the iPhone hardware doesn t support environment mapping. All is not lost, though. The hardware might not do it automatically for you, but that doesn t mean you can t roll up your sleeves and, with some extra work, do it yourself. To accomplish that, you need to take a close look at the math behind environment mapping. Capturing the scene around you on a single, flat texture is a challenging task. It s very similar to the problem of trying to create an accurate projection of the surface of the globe of the earth onto a piece of paper (except that in this case you see the scene from inside the sphere, not from the outside). No matter what approach you take, the scene is going to have some amount of distortion. That might be a problem if you re trying to render a smoothly, reflecting mirror ball, but all I was going to use it for was to add some shiny spots on the leaves, so accuracy was not a goal.
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CHAPTER 11: Environment Mapping and Reflections with OpenGL ES
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In computer graphics, there are two common techniques for mapping a scene onto a texture: spherical environment mapping and cube environment mapping. In this case, you ll map the scene surrounding you as mapped on a sphere centered at your location. In the other case, the scene will be mapped into each of the six sides of a cube centered at your location. For this implementation, I went with spherical mapping because it is a bit faster to compute, and the resulting quality is plenty for these needs.
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Spherical Environment Mapping Implementation
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Assume that the lights around your scene are not changing, so you can create a spherical environment map offline and use it every frame during your rendering. Figure 11-4 shows an example of a spherical environment map. Notice that the object itself is usually not part of the environment map, just the objects and lights surrounding it.
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