Discrete & Computational Geometry

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 143–164 | Cite as

Drawing Graphs Using a Small Number of Obstacles



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 number \({{\mathrm{obs}}}(G)\) of G 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 \({{\mathrm{obs}}}(G) \le n\lceil \log {n}\rceil -n+1\). 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 \(2^{\Omega (hn)}\) on the number of n-vertex graphs with obstacle number at most h for \(h<n\) and a lower bound \(\Omega (n^{4/3}M^{2/3})\) for the complexity of a collection of \(M \ge \Omega (n\log ^{3/2}{n})\) faces in an arrangement of line segments with n endpoints. The latter bound is tight up to a multiplicative constant.


Obstacle number Geometric drawing Arrangements of line segments 

Mathematics Subject Classification

05C62 68R10 52C30 



The first and the third author acknowledge the support of the Project CE-ITI (GAČR P202/12/G061) of the Czech Science Foundation, ERC Advanced Research Grant No. 267165 (DISCONV), and the Grant GAUK 1262213 of the Grant Agency of Charles University. The first author was also supported by the Grant SVV–2016–260332. Part of the research was conducted during the workshop Homonolo 2014 supported by the European Science Foundation as a part of the EuroGIGA collaborative research program (Graphs in Geometry and Algorithms).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Mathematics and Institute for Theoretical Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics and PhysicsCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Alfréd Rényi Institute of MathematicsHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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