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Cornell University Program of Computer Graphics
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Approximating polyhedra with spheres for time-critical collision detection.

Philip M. Hubbard.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 15(3):179--210, July 1996.

This paper presents a method for approximating polyhedral objects to support a time-critical collision-detection algorithm. The approximations are hierarchies of spheres, and they allow the time-critical algorithm to progressively refine the accuracy of its detection, stopping as needed to maintain the real-time performance essential for interactive applications. The key to this approach is a preprocess that automatically builds tightly fitting hierarchies for rigid and articulated objects. The preprocess uses medial-axis surfaces, which are skeletal representations of objects. These skeletons guide an optimization technique that gives the hierarchies accuracy properties appropriate for collision detection. In a sample application, hierarchies built this way allow the time-critical collision-detection algorithm to have acceptable accuracy, improving significantly on that possible with hierarchies built by previous techniques. The performance of the time-critical algorithm in this application is consistently 10 to 100 times better than a previous collision-detection algorithm, maintaining low latency and a nearly-constant frame rate of 10 frames per second on a conventional graphics workstation. The time-critical algorithm maintains its real-time performance as objects become more complicated, even as they exceed previously reported complexity levels by a factor of more than 10.

This paper is available as a compressed Postscript file (1.5M).

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