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How to render a Cannon.js scene

You've learnt how to render really cool 3D in the browser, and now you want your mesh to move. You add your favorite physics engine (cannon.js) to your project, and then... what?

These examples demonstrates how to render a Cannon.js physics scene using commonly used 3D libraries. The main problem is to make a mesh move according to a CANNON.Body by synchronizing coordinates (position and orientation).

If you are looking for more in-depth examples on how to use Cannon.js, go to the demos instead.


One of the most convenient ways of using Cannon.js with Three.js is by enabling use of quaternions:

mesh.useQuaternion = true;

Note: On the latest version of Three.js (r59) useQuaternion is true by default.

Then it gets really simple to copy over position+orientation data to the Three.js mesh:

mesh.position.x = body.position.x;
mesh.position.y = body.position.y;
mesh.position.z = body.position.z;
mesh.quaternion.x = body.quaternion.x;
mesh.quaternion.y = body.quaternion.y;
mesh.quaternion.z = body.quaternion.z;
mesh.quaternion.w = body.quaternion.w;

See threejs.html for a full example.


SceneJS supports quaternions, too. When setting up your scene, make sure to create a translation node and a quaternion node for your mesh.

  type: "translate",
  id: "my-translate",
  x : 0.0, y : 0.0, z : 0.0,

  nodes: [
      type: "quaternion",
      id: "my-quaternion",
      x : 1.0, y : 0.0, z : 0.0, angle : 0.0,

      nodes: [

The update of these nodes can be done like this:

scene.findNode("my-translate").set("xyz",{ x:0.0, y:0.0, z:0.0});
scene.findNode("my-quaternion").set("rotation",{ x:0.0, y:0.0, z:0.0, angle:0.0 });

The full example, and how to get the axis/angle representation of the CANNON.Quaternion, can be found in scenejs.html.

KickJS (as of 0.5.1)

You can easily update your KickJS game objects by copying the position and rotation vectors from cannon.js like this:

pos = body.position
quat = body.quaternion
gameObject.transform.position = [pos.x, pos.y, pos.z]
gameObject.transform.rotation = [quat.x, quat.y, quat.z, quat.w]

Also, an easy way to step the physics simulation is to create a component with the following update-function and add it to a game object:

this.update = function() {
  world.step(0.001 * engine.time.deltaTime)