Motivated by visibility problems in three dimensions, we investigate the complexity and construction of the set of tangent lines in a scene of three-dimensional polyhedra. We prove that the set of lines tangent to four possibly intersecting convex polyhedra in ℝ3 with a total of n edges consists of Θ (re2) connected components in the worst case. In the generic case, each connected component is a single line, but our result still holds for arbitrarily degenerate scenes. More generally, we show that a set of k possibly intersecting convex polyhedra with a total of n edges admits, in the worst case, Θ (n2k2) connected components of maximal free line segments tangent to at least four polytopes. Furthermore, these bounds also hold for possibly occluded lines rather than maximal free line segments. Finally, we present an O(n2k2 log n) time and O(nk2) space algorithm that, given a scene of k possibly intersecting convex polyhedra, computes all the minimal free line segments that are tangent to any four of the polytopes and are isolated transversals to the set of edges they intersect; in particular, we compute at least one line segment per connected component of tangent lines.

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SIAM Journal on Computing
School of Computer Science

Brönnimann, H. (Hervé), Devillers, O. (Olivier), Dujmović, V, Everett, H. (Hazel), Glisse, M. (Marc), Goaoc, X. (Xavier), … Whitesides, S. (Sue). (2007). Lines and free line segments tangent to arbitrary three-dimensional convex polyhedra. SIAM Journal on Computing, 37(2), 522–551. doi:10.1137/S0097539705447116