2010. április 23., péntek

How to compute the centroid of a polygon


How to compute the centroid of a polygon


The centroid (a.k.a. the center of mass, or center of gravity) of a polygon can be computed as the weighted sum of the centroids of a partition of the polygon into triangles. The centroid of a triangle is simply the average of its three vertices, i.e., it has coordinates (x1 + x2 + x3)/3 and (y1 + y2 + y3)/3. This suggests first triangulating the polygon, then forming a sum of the centroids of each triangle, weighted by the area of each triangle, the whole sum normalized by the total polygon area. This indeed works, but there is a simpler method: the triangulation need not be a partition, but rather can use positively and negatively oriented triangles (with positive and negative areas), as is used when computing the area of a polygon. This leads to a very simple algorithm for computing the centroid, based on a sum of triangle centroids weighted with their signed area. The triangles can be taken to be those formed by any fixed point, e.g., the vertex v0 of the polygon, and the two endpoints of consecutive edges of the polygon: (v1,v2), (v2,v3), etc. The area of a triangle with vertices a, b, c is half of this expression:

(b[X] - a[X]) * (c[Y] - a[Y]) - (c[X] - a[X]) * (b[Y] - a[Y])

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