On the complexity of minimum-link path problems

I. Kostitsyna, M. Löffler, V. Polishchuk, F. Staals

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We revisit the minimum-link path problem: Given a polyhedral domain and two points in it, connect the points by a polygonal path with minimum number of edges. We consider settings where the vertices and/or the edges of the path are restricted to lie on the boundary of the domain, or can be in its interior. Our results include bit complexity bounds, a novel general hardness construction, and a polynomial-time approximation scheme. We fully characterize the situation in 2 dimensions, and provide first results in dimensions 3 and higher for several variants of the problem.

Concretely, our results resolve several open problems. We prove that computing the minimum-link diffuse reflection path, motivated by ray tracing in computer graphics, is NP-hard, even for two-dimensional polygonal domains with holes. This has remained an open problem [Ghosh et al.'2012] despite a large body of work on the topic. We also resolve the open problem from [Mitchell et al.'1992] mentioned in the handbook [Goodman and Rourke'2004] (see Chapter 27.5, Open problem 3) and The Open Problems Project [http://maven.smith.edu/~orourke/TOPP/] (see Problem 22): "What is the complexity of the minimum-link path problem in 3-space?" Our results imply that the problem is NP-hard even on terrains (and hence, due to discreteness of the answer, there is no FPTAS unless P=NP), but admits a PTAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-108
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Computational Geometry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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