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Recognition and Complexity of Point Visibility Graphs


A point visibility graph is a graph induced by a set of points in the plane, where every vertex corresponds to a point, and two vertices are adjacent whenever the two corresponding points are visible from each other, that is, the open segment between them does not contain any other point of the set. We study the recognition problem for point visibility graphs: Given a simple undirected graph, decide whether it is the visibility graph of some point set in the plane. We show that the problem is complete for the existential theory of the reals. Hence the problem is as hard as deciding the existence of a real solution to a system of polynomial inequalities. The proof involves simple substructures forcing collinearities in all realizations of some visibility graphs, which are applied to the algebraic universality constructions of Mnëv and Richter-Gebert. This solves a longstanding open question and paves the way for the analysis of other classes of visibility graphs. Furthermore, as a corollary of one of our construction, we show that there exist point visibility graphs that do not admit any geometric realization with points on a grid. We also prove that the problem of recognizing visibility graphs of points on a grid is decidable if and only if the existential theory of the rationals is decidable.

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We thank an anonymous SoCG referee for pointing out an error in the original proof.We also thank the anonymous DCG referee for his numerous suggestions, which helped to simplify the constructions significantly compared to the conference version. J. Cardinal is supported by the ARC (Action de Recherche Concertée) project COPHYMA. U. Hoffmann is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within the research training group ’Methods for Discrete Structures’ (GRK 1408).

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Correspondence to Udo Hoffmann.

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This manuscript is a revised and extended version of a previous paper published in the proceedings of the 31st International Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2015).

Editor in Charge: János Pach

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Cardinal, J., Hoffmann, U. Recognition and Complexity of Point Visibility Graphs. Discrete Comput Geom 57, 164–178 (2017).

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  • Point visibility graphs
  • Existential theory of the reals
  • Geometric graph representations