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Bivariate Simplex B-Splines: A New Paradigm

Marian Neamtu Department of Mathematics Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 37240, USA


1. Simplex B-Splines
The classical univariate splines are a standard tool in computer-aided geometric design, modeling of curves and surfaces, and in a host of other areas in applied mathematics and engineering. These splines owe their attractiveness mainly to their piecewise polynomial and local nature, which is exemplied by the existence of a local basis for univariate splines, the well-known B-spline basis. Bsplines are natural geometric objects in that they can be viewed as shadows or volumetric projections of higherdimensional simplices. This interpretation of B-splines is a classical result obtained by I. J. Schoenberg, the founder of the spline theory, and his collaborator, in the famous paper [3]. Figure 1 shows the idea of the geometric interpretation, by which a quadratic B-spline with four knots is dened by slicing a three-dimensional simplex with planes perpendicular to the real line, and then projecting the areas of the obtained cross-sections onto this line. In this way one can get B-splines of arbitrary degree and for arbitrary knots, by taking an appropriate simplex in the ( )-dimensional Euclidean space and volumetrically projecting it onto . The above geometric interpretation generated much ex-

Figure 1. Geometric interpretation of univariate B-splines ( ).

citement among spline theorists since they soon realized that the same idea can be used to dene multivariate generalizations of B-splines. As a result, C. de Boor [1] dened multivariate B-splines of degree . In the bivariate case, this denition reads

where is a set of knots in of size , and where the simplex is such that is the projection of the vertices of onto . Here, vol denotes the -dimensional volume of a set . For the obvious reason, multivariate B-splines are also often called simplex splines. The normalizing factor in the denominator of the above expression was chosen so that

For , the lowest-degree B-spline is dened as a piecewise constant function. Specically, if is a triple of knots

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(1) (2)

A construction of bivariate splines is described, based on a new concept of higher degree Delaunay congurations. The crux of this construction is that knot-sets for simplex B-splines are selected by considering groups of nearby knots. The new approach gives rise to a natural generalization of univariate splines in that the linear span of this collection of B-splines forms a space which is analogous to the classical univariate splines. This new spline space depends uniquely and in a local way on the prescribed knot locations, and there is no need to use auxiliary or perturbed knots as in some earlier constructions.




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0 11 8 7 4 5 9

10 6 3


Figure 4. The support of the B-spline from Figure 3.

Figure 2. Geometric interpretation of bivariate B-splines ( ).

Figure 3. A bivariate quadratic B-spline (


The support of such a quadratic spline is the convex hull of ve knots in the plane, see Figure 4. The spline consists of pieces of quadratic polynomials corresponding to the regions depicted in the gure. All these polynomial pieces form a piecewise polynomial that is globally smooth, i.e., the polynomial pieces on neighboring pieces join with tangent-plane continuity. In general, a nite collection of knots in gives rise to a B-spline of degree , supported on the convex hull of the knots. If the knots are in general position, i.e., if no three of them are collinear, the B-spline has optimal smoothness ( ). Simplex B-splines and their univariate counterparts share many useful properties, see e.g., [4, 7]. For example, B-splines can be evaluated by a recurrence relation which is similar to the well-known recursion for ordinary B-splines. In particular, a B-spline of a given degree can be expressed in terms of lower-degree B-splines as


' ~b }| z & {

is the characteristic function of the triangle , the convex hull of . Denition (1) is illustrated in Figure 2. In this gure a B-spline of degree is obtained by volumetrically projecting a simplex onto the plane . The resulting spline is a piecewise linear pyramid-like function whose support is the convex hull of the four knots . A quadratic B-spline is depicted in Figure 3, which can be thought of as the volumetric projection of a four-dimensional simplex onto the plane.


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, then


where the numbers

, are chosen such that


Of course, while individual simplex B-splines are mathematically appealing functions in their own right, it is the linear combinations of such splines that are of main interest in modeling and/or data-tting applications. Thus, the fundamental question is how one can choose appropriate collections of knot-sets to construct meaningful spaces spanned by bivariate B-splines. In the univariate case, as we know, this issue is resolved trivially by choosing knots-sets formed by consecutive knots. Thus, roughly, if is


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an ordered collection of knots, a corresponding spline space will consist of splines of the form

where knots as

Thus, in the univariate case, the collections of knot-sets arise naturally as a byproduct of the total ordering of the real line. Since there is no natural ordering in the Euclidean plane, it should not come as a surprise that the problem of choosing appropriate collections of knots is far from trivial. This problem can be stated more precisely as follows. Suppose that is a collection of knots in the plane (nite or innite). Can we choose a collection of knot-sets of size such that the linear span of the associated Bsplines of degree , span

2. Voronoi Diagrams and Delaunay Triangulations

Let be a set of points in the plane. The Voronoi diagram of is dened as the partition of into subsets that are closest to one of the points in . Thus, for each there is a closed set , called a Voronoi cell, such that the distance of every from is less than or equal the distance of from any other point in

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z R

gives rise to a useful space of splines in the plane? Formulated more rigorously, should be large enough so that would contain (at least locally) all polynomials of degree . Thus, in particular, using this spline space we must be able to reconstruct constant functions, which is a reasonable requirement. (A deeper reason for the need of a space that reproduces polynomials of a given degree is that this degree directly determines the degree of approximation of , see [2, 4]). At the same time, however, there is the contradictory requirement that the collection should not be too large. Namely, the B-splines , must have small supports. This is why it is not acceptable to dene as the collection of all knot-sets of size , for then too many B-splines would overlap. One reason for the initial optimism sparked by the geometric denition (1) of B-splines was that this denition also immediately gives a recipe for selecting collections . For example, in the quadratic case, one can take the fourdimensional slab of the form , where is a two-dimensional convex polygon (such as a 2-simplex) and triangulate it, i.e., decompose it into four-dimensional simplices. These simplices give rise to a collection of Bsplines whose linear span automatically reproduces constants. This is because the volumetric projection of the above slab (which is the union of the mentioned simplices) is obviously the constant function with value vol , the area of . In fact, one can even show that by this construction, the space will contain, next to constants, all polynomials of degree . However, despite the apparent beauty of the above idea, the above approach was soon abandoned. This is because constructing bivariate splines by triangulating four or


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are the univariate B-splines of degree with , which we can write more precisely


Figure 5. Voronoi diagram of a set of points. higher-dimensional polyhedra did not seem appealing, nor very practical. Therefore, other ways of obtaining appropriate collections were proposed, the most recent one of which was given in [5]. Unfortunately, all these constructions suffer from various shortcomings that are not encountered in the univariate situation. For example, in the stateof-the-art construction of [5], not all knots are equal in the sense that, next to the original knots , certain auxiliary knots need to be chosen before one can proceed with the actual construction of the spline space. This complication may explain why simplex splines have so far not gained a wide popularity amongst applied mathematicians. We refer the reader to the survey [8], for a detailed discussion of the various issues related to the construction of simplex spline spaces. Below, we describe a new construction of spline spaces, which does not require the introduction of auxiliary knots, and which nevertheless still exhibits several desirable properties.

sult can be restated as

9 12 14 10 7 16 3 6 8 4

5 11 13

where are the vertices of a triangle in . This means that appropriate linear combinations of the lowestdegree B-splines, corresponding to the collection of knotsets (5) reproduce constants. Strictly speaking, the above equality is true only for all in the interior of the triangles, but one can redene the lowest-degree B-splines on the boundaries of these triangles so as to achieve pointwise equality everywhere on .


3. Higher Order Voronoi Diagrams and Delaunay Congurations

Motivated by (4) and (5), the main idea of this paper can be explained as follows. Since the lowest-degree bivariate splines are obtained from Delaunay triangulations, it is conceivable that splines of degrees can be generated using appropriate higher-degree analogs of such triangulations. This is indeed possible, as we shall see. Thus, our construction of splines, discussed below, can be viewed as a generalization of (4) to higher degree Delaunay triangulations, called here Delaunay congurations. Just as Delaunay triangulations are related to Voronoi diagrams, Delaunay congurations will be closely tied to the so-called higher order Voronoi diagrams, which we introduce rst. To keep our presentation simple, we will make several assumptions about the set . First, the points in will be in generic position in the sense that no four of them are cocircular, i.e., lying on a common circle. A consequence of this requirement is that any given point in can belong to at most three Voronoi cells. This is equivalent to saying that the Delaunay triangulation is dened uniquely for . The second assumption on will be that is innite and such that . Moreover, to avoid technical complications, we will be assumed to have no accumulation points, i.e., will be such that is nite for every compact . These assumptions allow us to dispense with considering various special cases arising from non-generic knot-congurations and also from boundary conditions in the case of a bounded . Higher order Voronoi diagrams have been introduced by Shamos and Hoey [16], as a tool in computational geometry (see also [10, 14]). The usefulness of these generalizations of Voronoi diagrams stems from the fact that they allow us to nd, for any given point and any number , a set of points from closest to . The precise denition is as follows.

Figure 6. Delaunay triangulation.

. Voronoi cells are known to be polygonal, i.e., intersections of nitely many closed half-planes. Figure 5 shows the Voronoi diagram of a set of points in the plane. Voronoi diagrams belong to standard tools in many areas of mathematics and computational geometry. For more on Voronoi diagrams, we refer the reader to [10, 14]. Equally well known is the dual graph of the Voronoi diagram, obtained by connecting two points from by an edge if their associated Voronoi cells are neighbors, i.e., share a common edge. In his 1934 paper [6], B. N. Delaunay proved that this dual graph of the Voronoi diagram is a tri, now called the Delaunay angulation of the convex hull triangulation. The Delaunay triangulation corresponding to the point-set from Figure 5 is displayed in Figure 6. Delaunay triangulations have numerous applications. Some of these are in the nite element method and in computer-aided geometric design, where the triangulation is a useful way of partitioning the domain of interest. Note that for a given set there are many ways of triangulating it. One reason for the popularity of the Delaunay triangulation is that it is known to maximize the minimal angle of the triangles. This property is crucial in many applications since the occurrence of long and thin triangles in a triangulation often has unwanted consequences. We refer to [12], for a survey of triangulation methods. For our purposes here it will be more appropriate to interpret Delaunays result in function-theoretic language. Namely, denoting the Delaunay triangulation by , this re-

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Figure 7. Voronoi diagram of order two. Denition 1. The Voronoi diagram of order of the set is the subdivision of into regions, called Voronoi cells (of degree ), such that each cell contains the same nearest points from . In particular, let be such that , where is the size of . The Voronoi cell is dened as

Figure 8. Voronoi diagram of order three.

where clidean norm.

, and

is the Eu-

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Note that typically many Voronoi cells will be empty sets. Voronoi diagrams of order one reduce to the usual Voronoi diagrams. Just as for the ordinary diagrams, the cells are convex polygonal sets. Figures 7 and 8 show the Voronoi diagrams of orders two and three, respectively, for the point-set from Figure 5. Higher order Voronoi diagrams have been suggested in connection with the construction of collections of knot-sets for bivariate quadratic B-splines by M. Sabin in [15]. While his idea does not lead to appropriate spline spaces, see [8], higher order Voronoi diagrams are intimately related to the already mentioned Delaunay congurations, which turn out to be better suited for the purpose of dening splines. To motivate the denition of such congurations and to explain that they are indeed generalizations of the ordinary Delaunay triangulations, let us consider the particular higher order Voronoi diagram of order two, displayed in Figure 9. The large-font pairs of numbers in some of


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the Voronoi cells represent the pairs of knots associated to a given cell. Thus, for example, the cell marked as 716 consists of all points in the plane that are closer to knots and than to any other pair from the given set. To explain the idea behind Delaunay congurations, let us recall that a Voronoi vertex is a point in the plane which is common to exactly three Voronoi cells (recall that by our assumption, there are no points belonging to four or more Voronoi cells). It is not difcult to see that every Voronoi vertex is the incenter of a circle circumscribed to triples of knots. In fact, there are precisely two types of such vertices, depicted in the gure. The rst type corresponds to the Voronoi vertex common to cells 79,711,911, hence it is the center of the circle passing through knots . The second depicted Voronoi vertex is common to cells 79,711,716 and is the center of the circle passing through knots . The essential difference between these two types of vertices is that the rst mentioned circle contains no knots in its interior, whereas the second circle contains one knot, namely the knot . Therefore, by a well-known fact about Delaunay triangulations, in the rst case the triangle with vertices is a Delaunay triangle, while in the second case, the triangle with vertices is not a Delaunay triangle. The Delaunay triangle gives rise, as we mentioned earlier, to a B-spline of degree zero (a constant B-spline). On the other hand, the quadruple corresponds to a (linear) B-spline of degree one. This quadruple will be called a Delaunay conguration of degree one (one refers to the number of knots inside the circle circumscribed to

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1 Figure 9. Voronoi diagram of order two and a 6 Delaunay conguration of degree one.

Figure 10. Delaunay congurations and circumscribed circles.

such that

and such that the closed disk , circumscribed to , contains in its interior and no other knots from (i.e., , ), is called the (oriented) Delaunay conguration of degree associated with knots . Figure 10 shows examples of Delaunay congurations of varying degrees. In particular, the triple of points is a Delaunay triangle, is a Delaunay quadruple, and both and are Delaunay quintuples (i.e., Delaunay congurations of degree two). Figure 11 shows a Delaunay conguration of degree three. Before we embark on discussing the relevance of the above notion for constructing bivariate splines, a few remarks on Denition 2 will be in order. The concept of a

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4. Partition of Unity and Reproduction of Polynomials

We now return to the central issue of this paper and present a construction of appropriate collections of knots-sets, along with the accompanying simplex spline spaces . First note that a Delaunay conguration of degree is a collection of knot-sets of size . This suggests that

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Denition 2. The family of pairs

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triangle ) or simply a Delaunay quadruple. We shall see that B-splines corresponding to such collections will give rise to a spline space with several striking properties. The above discussion motivates the following denition.

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Delaunay conguration seems to be new. Although it is implicit in several papers on higher order Voronoi diagrams, see e.g., [17], it does not seem to have been studied as a separate entity. It is immediately clear from the well-known properties of Delaunay triangulations that these are Delau, i.e., . It should nay congurations of degree be noted that Delaunay congurations for do not form a partition of i.e., a higher degree Delaunay conguration is not a tessellation. Clearly, for every , the sets and are disjoint. In our notation, stands for boundary and for interior knots. Finally, some Delaunay congurations may be different as pairs and yet the same as sets, for there could be two different congurations and , corresponding to the same set of points, i.e., , but , . However, it will be important to treat such congurations as different.

these variables, and such that is equal to on the diagonal, i.e., . If , then we dene . We are now ready to state the announced result, that every polynomial can be expressed as a linear combination of the B-splines whose knot-sets are Delaunay congurations of degree . Here, as usual, stands for the space of all bivariate polynomials of (total) degree at most . Theorem 1. Let and let be the polar form of . Also, let be the Delaunay conguration of degree of a given set of knots . Then (6)

Figure 11. Boundary and interior knots of a Delaunay conguration of degree three.


are normalized simplex B-splines, dened by area (7) . In

and is the simplex spline with knots particular, where

is the spline space corresponding to span

, i.e.,

Figure 12. The area of the convex hull of boundary knots enters the normalizing factor in (7).

An immediate consequence of the above normalization (7), illustrated for a Delaunay conguration of degree three in Figure 12, is the following Corollary 2. The normalized B-splines form a partition of unity, that is

5. Concluding Remarks

To better appreciate the above results, it will be useful to compare identities (6) and (7) with their univariate

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as the space spanned by the simplex B-splines we dene whose knot-sets are precisely the Delaunay congurations corresponding to a given set of knots . As we have pointed out earlier, this certainly makes sense in the lowestdegree case , since then contains constant functions, as a consequence of (4). In fact, this property carries over to all degrees . To formulate the above more precisely, let us rst recall some helpful facts about polar forms of polynomials. The concept of a polar form or blossom, while known for quite some time in an algebraic context, has been introduced into the spline theory by de Casteljau and independently by Ramshaw (see [11], for an introduction). Polar forms have proven to be a convenient mathematical tool for describing (piecewise) polynomial functions and for analyzing various spline algorithms. Given a bivariate polynomial of degree at most , the polar form of is dened as the unique function of vector variables , which is symmetric, afne in each of

For , the assertion of Theorem 1 follows from the fact that is just the characteristic function of . To see this, note that by (2), the B-spline has unit integral and the support of is the triangle . Therefore, Theorem 1 in this case is just a restatement of the Delaunay theorem (4). For , the proof can be done by induction on , using the recurrence (3) along with some combinatorial properties of , see [9]. Corollary 2 follows from (6) by setting , or .

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counterparts. In particular, the familiar univariate normalized B-spline (see e.g., [13]), corresponding to a knot-set , is given by the formula (8)


is the univariate Bwhere spline normalized to have unit integral. Note that this is the exact analog of (7), since the knot-set can be thought of as the Delaunay conguration of degree , with , where the boundary knots are and the interior knots are given as (observe that in the univariate case, Delaunay congurations of degree of a collection consecuof knots on the real line are just the sets of tive points from this collection). Thus, identity (7) reduces to (8) if we think of the difference as the (onedimensional) area of and write




[6] [7]

where we have replaced the 2 in (7), which signies the dimension of , with 1, the dimension of . Similarly, the univariate counterpart of (6) clearly is


[9] [10]

where is now a univariate polynomial of degree at most and is the usual polar form of a univariate polynomial. This is precisely the well-known polynomial reproduction formula for univariate splines, see [11]. To summarize, our construction of splines yields a spline space for which all polynomials can be represented explicitly in an elegant and simple way. This representation is virtually identical to its univariate counterpart, which is in contrast to earlier constructions of simplex spline spaces, such as the already mentioned construction in [5]. Finally, while the splines dened here seem very natural in many respects, it should be pointed out that at this time it is not clear how useful such splines might become for applications. Despite the apparent theoretical appeal of these splines, much more research remains to be done before one can decide whether they can compete successfully with other types of splines currently in use. This will also depend on whether one can design efcient methods to generate Delaunay congurations. This, too, is presently an unchartered territory.

[11] [12]


[14] [15]


[1] Boor, C. de, Splines as linear combinations of Bsplines. A survey, in Approximation Theory, II, G. G.


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