# Understanding Quaternion Rotations

An object in 3-space can go from any initial orientation to any final orientation by:

• defining exactly one vector in 3-space
• rotating that object about that vector by a specific angle

### The anatomy of a quaternion

A quaternion is defined:

$\widehat{q} = a + b\hat{i} + c\hat{j} + d\hat{k}$

Where $$\hat{i}$$, $$\hat{j}$$ and $$\hat{k}$$ are all unit vectors along the three spatial axes.

### Significance of the 3-Space Component

To understand quaternion rotation intuitively, let’s ignore the “real” part and only pay attention to the 3-space component:

$\widehat{q}_{ijk} = b\hat{i} + c\hat{j} + d\hat{k}$

The magnitude $$\Vert \widehat{q}_{ijk} \Vert$$ defines a fraction from $$0.0$$ to $$1.0$$ which represents a $$0.0^{\circ}$$ to $$180.0^{\circ}$$ rotation about the vector $$\widehat{q}_{ijk}$$.

Note: The relationship between $$\Vert \widehat{q}_{ijk} \Vert$$ is not linear. $$\Vert \widehat{q} \Vert = 1.0$$ therefore, a rotation of $$90.0^{\circ}$$ maps to $$\Vert \widehat{q}_{ijk} \Vert = 0.7071, a = 0.7071$$.

The mathematics of quaternions are a little bit more involved than what I described above.

Thier inventer, William Hamilton desctibes them as quotents of two vectors, which requires $$\Vert \widehat{q} \Vert = 1.0$$. Therefore, $$a$$ effectively describes how much a vector should not rotate in order to point in the direction of another vector.

A value of $$a = 1.0$$ indicates the two vectors making up the quaternion pointed in the same direction.

### Calculating a quaternion from a vector and rotation

Given a unit vector:

$\widehat{n} = \begin{bmatrix} x \\ y \\ z \end{bmatrix}$

And an angle which we will rotate around the unit vector by, $$\phi$$.

$\widehat{q} = \cos\left(\frac{\theta}{2}\right) + \sin\left(\frac{\theta}{2}\right) (x\hat{i} + y\hat{j} + z\hat{k})$

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