Section: Application Domains

Applications of computational geometry

Many domains of science can benefit from the results developed by Gamble . Curves and surfaces are ubiquitous in all sciences to understand and interpret raw data as well as experimental results. Still, the non-linear problems we address are rather basic and fundamental, and it is often difficult to predict the impact of solutions in that area. The short-term industrial impact is likely to be small because, on basic problems, industries have used ad hoc solutions for decades and have thus got used to it. The example of our work on quadric intersection is typical: even though we were fully convinced that intersecting 3D quadrics is such an elementary/fundamental problem that it ought to be useful, we were the first to be astonished by the scope of the applications of our software (QI: http://vegas.loria.fr/qi/.) (which was the first and still is the only one —to our knowledge— to compute robustly and efficiently the intersection of 3D quadrics) which has been used by researchers in, for instance, photochemistry, computer vision, statistics, and mathematics. Our work on certified drawing of plane (algebraic) curves falls in the same category. It seems obvious that it is widely useful to be able to draw curves correctly (recall also that part of the problem is to determine where to look in the plane) but it is quite hard to come up with specific examples of fields where this is relevant. A contrario, we know that certified meshing is critical in mechanical-design applications in robotics, which is a non-obvious application field. There, the singularities of a manipulator often have degrees higher than 10 and meshing the singular locus in a certified way is currently out of reach. As a result, researchers in robotics can only build physical prototypes for validating, or not, the approximate solutions given by non-certified numerical algorithms.

The fact that several of our pieces of software for computing non-Euclidean triangulations have already been requested by users long before they become public is a good sign for their wide future impact once in Cgal . This will not come as a surprise, since most of the questions that we have been studying followed from discussions with researchers outside computer science and pure mathematics. Such researchers are either users of our algorithms and software, or we meet them in workshops. Let us only mention a few names here. We have already referred above to our collaboration with Rien van de Weijgaert [47], [63] (astrophysicist, Groningen, NL). Michael Schindler [59] (theoretical physicist, ENSPCI, CNRS, France) is using our prototype software for 3D periodic weighted triangulations. Stephen Hyde and Vanessa Robins (applied mathematics and physics at Australian National University) have recently signed a software license agreement with Inria that allows their group to use our prototype for 3D periodic meshing. Olivier Faugeras (neuromathematics, Inria Sophia Antipolis) had come to us and mentioned his needs for good meshes of the Bolza surface [37] before we started to study them. Such contacts are very important both to get feedback about our research and to help us choose problems that are relevant for applications. These problems are at the same time challenging from the mathematical and algorithmic points of view. Note that our research and our software are generic, i.e., we are studying fundamental geometric questions, which do not depend on any specific application. This recipe has made the sucess of the Cgal library.

Probabilistic models for geometric data are widely used to model various situations ranging from cell phone distribution to quantum mechanics. The impact of our work on probabilistic distributions is twofold. On the one hand, our studies of properties of geometric objects built on such distributions will yield a better understanding of the above phenomena and has potential impact in many scientific domains. On the other hand, our work on simulations of probabilistic distributions will be used by other teams, more maths oriented, to study these distributions.