Normal maps as-is are just glorified bump maps: they don’t change actual shape of the mesh. But if you have a contemporary renderer like 3Delight that supports vector displacement, you can get intricate shapes from basic primitives – if you have the right maps, that is.
The cylinder has a basic normal map made in MapZone applied, but if you zoom in, you’ll see it displaces the outline correctly.
And the ear is just a primitive plane. The ear map is available on the 3Delight wiki.
I think I should also try adding the new vertex displacement mode; it doesn’t give the same detailing, but there are situations where it can be useful because it should be faster.
As of right now, I only added vector displacement to RadiumFabric; I guess RadiumSolid should also have it, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort adding it to the Glass shader.
With the amount of writing that has to be done for my real life job currently, I honestly don’t feel like doing any more writing for my hobbies at the moment (and likely in the next few following months)… so I’m coding in new features instead of polishing the documentation. Bad, bad Fox.