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Jyh-Ming Lien, Nancy M. Amato, "Approximate Convex Decomposition of Polygons," Technical Report, TR03-008, Parasol Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, Texas A&M University, Dec 2003.
Technical Report(ps, pdf, abstract)

We propose a strategy to decompose a polygon, containing zero or more holes, into "approximately convex" pieces. For many applications, the approximately convex components of this decomposition provide similar benefits as convex components, while the resulting decomposition is significantly smaller and can be computed more efficiently. Moreover, our approximate convex decomposition (ACD) provides a mechanism to focus on key structural features and ignore less significant artifacts such as wrinkles and surface texture; a user specified tolerance determines allowable concavity. We propose a simple algorithm that computes an ACD of a polygon by iteratively removing (resolving) the most significant non-convex feature (notch). As a by product, it produces an elegant hierarchical representation that provides a series of `increasingly convex' decompositions. Our algorithm computes an ACD of a simple polygon with n vertices and r notches in O(nr) time. In contrast, exact convex decomposition is NP-hard or, if the polygon has no holes, takes O(nr^2) time.