Fast exact shortest distance queries for massive point clouds

D. Eriksson, E. Shellshear. Graphical Models, Online 19 March, 2016 (In press).


This paper describes a new efficient algorithm for the rapid computation of exact shortest distances between a point cloud and another object (e.g. triangulated, point-based, etc.) in three dimensions. It extends the work presented in Eriksson and Shellshear (2014) where only approximate distances were computed on a simplification of a massive point cloud. Here, the fast computation of the exact shortest distance is achieved by pruning large subsets of the point cloud known not to be closest to the other object. The approach works for massive point clouds even with a small amount of RAM and is able to provide real time performance. Given a standard PC with only 8GB of RAM, this resulted in real-time shortest distance computations of 15 frames per second for a point cloud having 1 billion points in three dimensions.


This work was carried out at the Wingquist Laboratory VINN Excellence Centre, and is part of the Sustainable Production Initiative and the Production Area of Advance at Chalmers University of Technology. It was supported by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. The authors are grately indebted to the insightful and helpful comments of the reviewers, who helped improve both the presentation and content of this article.

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Eriksson, Center for Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA
  • Evan Shellshear, Fraunhofer-Chalmers Centre, Gothenburg, Sweden

Photo credits: Nic McPhee