Variational Implicit Surfaces

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Turk, Greg
O'Brien, James F.
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We introduce a new method of creating smooth implicit surfaces of arbitrary manifold topology. These surfaces are described by specifying locations in 3D through which the surface should pass, and also identifying locations that are interior or exterior to the surface. A 3D implicit function is created from these constraints using a variational scattered data interpolation approach. We call the iso-surface of this function a \emph{variational implicit surface}. Like other implicit surface descriptions, these surfaces can be used for CSG and interference detection, may be interactively manipulated, are readily approximated by polygonal tilings, and are easy to ray trace. A key strength is that variational implicit surfaces allow the direct specification of both the location of points on the surface and surface normals. These are two important manipulation techniques that are difficult to achieve using other implicit surface representations such as sums of spherical or ellipsoidal Gaussian functions (``blobbies''). We show that these properties make variational implicit surfaces particularly attractive for interactive sculpting using the particle sampling technique introduced by Witkin and Heckbert in~\cite{Witkin}. Our formulation also yields a simple method for converting a polygonal model to a smooth implicit model.
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