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Subject: Re: [boost] Interval Trees & ICL
From: Joachim Faulhaber (afojgo_at_[hidden])
Date: 2010-12-15 12:49:07

Hi Bruce

2010/12/14 Bruce Adams <tortoise_74_at_[hidden]>:
> Hi,
>    I have been working on a problem for which a suitable solution is an
> efficient container of intervals.
> The two main candidates would be something like to boost::split_interval_set or
> a centred interval tree
> (along the lines of
> It seems to me that the characteristics of an interval tree differ sufficiently
> from the containers defined in ICL that they might make a useful addition.

No doubt, interval_trees would be a useful addition to the library.
For certain use cases they perform better than the interval container
currently available in the ICL.

> For the case where there is a potentially large number of overlapping intervals
> a split_interval_set will be less efficient
> than an interval tree. In the worst case intervals would be split down to unit
> size.

That depends what you intend to do with your interval container. One
of the fundamental ideas for containers of the ICL was that of a
compact and minimal representation of sets or maps using intervals. An
icl::interval_set for example instantly joins inserted intervals if
they overlap and thus always stays in a minimal form. Contrary to an
interval tree, it forgets the intervals that have been inserted into
it and it can not answer stabbing queries anymore.

> Searching the archives I see there was some discussion of interval trees in the
> context of ICL but the additional of an interval tree
> container did not, as far as I can tell, come up (perhaps because it should
> first appear in a boost release before there is any consideration
> of adding to it?).

There was an agreement among the reviewers that the library in the
current from is very useful, and efficient in many use cases, so it
should be accepted into boost. I have agreed to integrate an interval
tree implementation in the further evolution of the library. But it
might also be contributed by others.

> I have a few questions:
> 1. Is there a specific name for the data structures provided by the ICL?

As already mentioned, a basic idea for the library was to implement
just sets and maps in a compact form exploiting the the fact, that
elements occur in contiguous chunks: intervals.

So you could say the ICL implements sets and maps. They are called
interval_sets and interval_maps just as with bitsets the prefix bit...
points to the way or technique the sets are implemented. I am not
aware of a more specific name for this class of data structures other
than interval_set and interval_map which I find quite natural.

> I have searched the literature and cannot find any mention of sets that split or
> combine intervals this way.
> It is either a genuinely novel concept, which I find difficult to believe, or I
> haven't used the correct search terms (interval, extent or segment).
> Either way, I would like to update wikipedia appropriately to help other lost
> souls.

I admit, I never did an in-depth literature search to find out the
"right" name for what I am doing. If you find out what it is, let me
know ;-)

> 2. Are there any compelling reasons why interval trees are less useful than the
> containers provided by the ICL?

I don't say interval trees are less useful than icl containers. They
are different data structures with different strenghts and weaknesses.

> 3. Perhaps based on the answer to 2. Would interval trees be a sensible addition
> to the ICL?


> 4. Are there any other classes of interval container worthy of mention?

Roughly... (1) A flat_interval_set/map that is implemented using a
vector can be more efficient, if there are mainly lookups and less
inserts/deletes on the object, after is has been created. (2) Another
interesting implementation of interval_sets/maps is a tree that only
stores the beginning points of intervals. The interval_set/map is
always infinite starting with (-inf, +inf) and gets only split by the
insertion of elements.


Interval Container Library [Boost.Icl]

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