Drawing Graphs Using a Small Number of Obstacles

Martin Balko, Josef Cibulka, Pavel Valtr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


An obstacle representation of a graph G is a set of points in the plane representing the vertices of G, together with a set of polygonal obstacles such that two vertices of G are connected by an edge in G if and only if the line segment between the corresponding points avoids all the obstacles. The obstacle numberobs (G) ofG is the minimum number of obstacles in an obstacle representation of G. We provide the first non-trivial general upper bound on the obstacle number of graphs by showing that every n-vertex graph G satisfies obs (G) ≤ n⌈ log n⌉ - n+ 1. This refutes a conjecture of Mukkamala, Pach, and Pálvölgyi. For n-vertex graphs with bounded chromatic number, we improve this bound to O(n). Both bounds apply even when the obstacles are required to be convex. We also prove a lower bound 2 Ω ( h n ) on the number of n-vertex graphs with obstacle number at most h for h< n and a lower bound Ω (n4 / 3M2 / 3) for the complexity of a collection of M≥ Ω (nlog 3 / 2n) faces in an arrangement of line segments with n endpoints. The latter bound is tight up to a multiplicative constant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-164
Number of pages22
JournalDiscrete and Computational Geometry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Arrangements of line segments
  • Geometric drawing
  • Obstacle number

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Geometry and Topology
  • Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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