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I want to find the geometric equivalent of vector addition and subtraction in 3d for quaternions. In 3d difference between 2 points(a and b) gives the vector from one point to another. (b-a) gives the vector from b to a and when I add this to b I find the point which is double distance from a in the direction of (b-a). I want to do the same thing for unit quaternions but they lie on 4d sphere so direct addition won't work. I want to find the equivalent equation for a-b and a+b where a and b are unit quaternions. It should be something similar to slerp but it is not intuitive to me how to use it here because addition produces a quaternion outside the arc between 2 quaternions.

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The standard quaternions $\mathbb H$ are a multiplicative structure on the standard linear space $\mathbb R^4$ -- they are not restricted to a sphere, and are closed under ordinary vector addition and subtraction. Are you thinking of some other kind of quaternions? – Henning Makholm Mar 3 '12 at 22:43
A discussion about quaternion slerp is available here. Found starting from wikipedia. – Raymond Manzoni Mar 3 '12 at 22:54
@HenningMakholm: I am talking about unit quaternions – Alp Hancioglu Mar 3 '12 at 22:59
Rotation is modeled by multiplication of unit quaternions (corresponding to composition of rotations), not addition in $\mathbb{H}$. The addition on the quaternions can only be considered when you're working with the whole thing - a division algebra isomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^4$ as an $\mathbb{R}$-vector space - which does not model rotations as a whole. Therefore it is unclear to me what you want to accomplish here. What, in your mind, "should be" the geometric "equivalents" of addition and subtraction on the sphere? – anon Mar 3 '12 at 23:20
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Slerp is exactly what you want, except with the interpolation parameter $t$ set to $2$ instead of lying between $0$ and $1$. Slerp is nothing but a constant-speed parametrization of the great circle between two points $a$ and $b$ on a hypersphere, such that $t = 0$ maps to $a$ and $t = 1$ maps to $b$. Setting $t = 2$ will get you the point on the great circle as far from $b$ as $b$ is from $a$. See my other answer to a related question on scaling figures lying in a hypersphere.

Update: Actually, it just occurred to me that this is overkill, though it gives the right answer. The simpler solution is that the quaternion that maps $a$ to $b$ is simply $ba^{-1}$ (this plays the role of "$b-a$"), and applying that quaternion to $b$ gives you $ba^{-1}b$ (analogous to "$(b - a) + b$") which is what you want.

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Thanks, it works as you described. – Alp Hancioglu Mar 4 '12 at 0:09
@Alp, please see my update for a simpler solution I just thought of. – Rahul Mar 4 '12 at 1:43

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