On the "piano movers" problem. II. General techniques for computing topological properties of real algebraic manifolds

Jacob T. Schwartz*, Micha Sharir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

470 Scopus citations


This paper continues the discussion, begun in J. Schwartz and M. Sharir [Comm. Pure Appl. Math., in press], of the following problem, which arises in robotics: Given a collection of bodies B, which may be hinged, i.e., may allow internal motion around various joints, and given a region bounded by a collection of polyhedral or other simple walls, decide whether or not there exists a continuous motion connecting two given positions and orientations of the whole collection of bodies. We show that this problem can be handled by appropriate refinements of methods introduced by A. Tarski ["A Decision Method for Elementary Algebra and Geometry," 2nd ed., Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley, 1951] and G. Collins [in "Second GI Conference on Automata Theory and Formal Languages," Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 33, pp. 134-183, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1975], which lead to algorithms for this problem which are polynomial in the geometric complexity of the problem for each fixed number of degrees of freedom (but exponential in the number of degrees of freedom). Our method, which is also related to a technique outlined by J. Reif [in "Proceedings, 20th Symposium on the Foundations of Computer Science," pp. 421-427, 1979], also gives a general (but not polynomial time) procedure for calculating all of the homology groups of an arbitrary real algebraic variety. Various algorithmic issues concerning computations with algebraic numbers, which are required in the algorithms presented in this paper, are also reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-351
Number of pages54
JournalAdvances in Applied Mathematics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1983


FundersFunder number
Bat-Sheva Fund of Israel
Office of Naval ResearchNOOOl4-75-C-0571
Office of Naval Research


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