Algorithms for fat objects : decompositions and applications

C.M. Gray

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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Computational geometry is the branch of theoretical computer science that deals with algorithms and data structures for geometric objects. The most basic geometric objects include points, lines, polygons, and polyhedra. Computational geometry has applications in many areas of computer science, including computer graphics, robotics, and geographic information systems. In many computational-geometry problems, the theoretical worst case is achieved by input that is in some way "unrealistic". This causes situations where the theoretical running time is not a good predictor of the running time in practice. In addition, algorithms must also be designed with the worst-case examples in mind, which causes them to be needlessly complicated. In recent years, realistic input models have been proposed in an attempt to deal with this problem. The usual form such solutions take is to limit some geometric property of the input to a constant. We examine a specific realistic input model in this thesis: the model where objects are restricted to be fat. Intuitively, objects that are more like a ball are more fat, and objects that are more like a long pole are less fat. We look at fat objects in the context of five different problems—two related to decompositions of input objects and three problems suggested by computer graphics. Decompositions of geometric objects are important because they are often used as a preliminary step in other algorithms, since many algorithms can only handle geometric objects that are convex and preferably of low complexity. The two main issues in developing decomposition algorithms are to keep the number of pieces produced by the decomposition small and to compute the decomposition quickly. The main question we address is the following: is it possible to obtain better decompositions for fat objects than for general objects, and/or is it possible to obtain decompositions quickly? These questions are also interesting because most research into fat objects has concerned objects that are convex. We begin by triangulating fat polygons. The problem of triangulating polygons—that is, partitioning them into triangles without adding any vertices—has been solved already, but the only linear-time algorithm is so complicated that it has never been implemented. We propose two algorithms for triangulating fat polygons in linear time that are much simpler. They make use of the observation that a small set of guards placed at points inside a (certain type of) fat polygon is sufficient to see the boundary of such a polygon. We then look at decompositions of fat polyhedra in three dimensions. We show that polyhedra can be decomposed into a linear number of convex pieces if certain fatness restrictions aremet. We also show that if these restrictions are notmet, a quadratic number of pieces may be needed. We also show that if we wish the output to be fat and convex, the restrictions must be much tighter. We then study three computational-geometry problems inspired by computer graphics. First, we study ray-shooting amidst fat objects from two perspectives. This is the problem of preprocessing data into a data structure that can answer which object is first hit by a query ray in a given direction from a given point. We present a new data structure for answering vertical ray-shooting queries—that is, queries where the ray’s direction is fixed—as well as a data structure for answering ray-shooting queries for rays with arbitrary direction. Both structures improve the best known results on these problems. Another problem that is studied in the field of computer graphics is the depth-order problem. We study it in the context of computational geometry. This is the problem of finding an ordering of the objects in the scene from "top" to "bottom", where one object is above the other if they share a point in the projection to the xy-plane and the first object has a higher z-value at that point. We give an algorithm for finding the depth order of a group of fat objects and an algorithm for verifying if a depth order of a group of fat objects is correct. The latter algorithm is useful because the former can return an incorrect order if the objects do not have a depth order (this can happen if the above/below relationship has a cycle in it). The first algorithm improves on the results previously known for fat objects; the second is the first algorithm for verifying depth orders of fat objects. The final problem that we study is the hidden-surface removal problem. In this problem, we wish to find and report the visible portions of a scene from a given viewpoint—this is called the visibility map. The main difficulty in this problem is to find an algorithm whose running time depends in part on the complexity of the output. For example, if all but one of the objects in the input scene are hidden behind one large object, then our algorithm should have a faster running time than if all of the objects are visible and have borders that overlap. We give such an algorithm that improves on the running time of previous algorithms for fat objects. Furthermore, our algorithm is able to handle curved objects and situations where the objects do not have a depth order—two features missing from most other algorithms that perform hidden surface removal.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • de Berg, Mark T., Promotor
Award date25 Aug 2008
Place of PublicationEindhoven
Print ISBNs978-90-386-1347-5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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