Section: Research Program

Probability in computational geometry

In most computational geometry papers, algorithms are analyzed in the worst-case setting. This often yields too pessimistic complexities that arise only in pathological situations that are unlikely to occur in practice. On the other hand, probabilistic geometry provides analyses with great precision [56], [57], [31], but using hypotheses with much more randomness than in most realistic situations. We are developing new algorithmic designs improving state-of-the-art performance in random settings that are not overly simplified and that can thus reflect many realistic situations.

Twelve years ago, smooth analysis was introduced by Spielman and Teng analyzing the simplex algorithm by averaging on some noise on the data [61] (and they won the Gödel prize). In essence, this analysis smoothes the complexity around worst-case situations, thus avoiding pathological scenarios but without considering unrealistic randomness. In that sense, this method makes a bridge between full randomness and worst case situations by tuning the noise intensity. The analysis of computational geometry algorithms within this framework is still embryonic. To illustrate the difficulty of the problem, we started working in 2009 on the smooth analysis of the size of the convex hull of a point set, arguably the simplest computational geometry data structure; then, only one very rough result from 2004 existed [38] and we only obtained in 2015 breakthrough results, but still not definitive [41], [40], [45].

Another example of problem of different flavor concerns Delaunay triangulations, which are rather ubiquitous in computational geometry. When Delaunay triangulations are computed for reconstructing meshes from point clouds coming from 3D scanners, the worst-case scenario is, again, too pessimistic and the full randomness hypothesis is clearly not adapted. Some results exist for “good samplings of generic surfaces” [21] but the big result that everybody wishes for is an analysis for random samples (without the extra assumptions hidden in the “good” sampling) of possibly non-generic surfaces.

Trade-offs between full randomness and worst case may also appear in other forms such as dependent distributions, or random distributions conditioned to be in some special configurations. Simulating these kinds of geometric distributions is currently out of reach for more than a few hundred points [48] although it has practical applications in physics or networks.