Ahn, Hee-Kap
; Sadakane, Kunihiko
(Ed.)

In the standard planar k-center clustering problem, one is given a set P of n points in the plane, and the goal is to select k center points, so as to minimize the maximum distance over points in P to their nearest center. Here we initiate the systematic study of the clustering with neighborhoods problem, which generalizes the k-center problem to allow the covered objects to be a set of general disjoint convex objects C rather than just a point set P. For this problem we first show that there is a PTAS for approximating the number of centers. Specifically, if r_opt is the optimal radius for k centers, then in n^O(1/ε²) time we can produce a set of (1+ε)k centers with radius ≤ r_opt. If instead one considers the standard goal of approximating the optimal clustering radius, while keeping k as a hard constraint, we show that the radius cannot be approximated within any factor in polynomial time unless P = NP, even when C is a set of line segments. When C is a set of unit disks we show the problem is hard to approximate within a factor of (√{13}-√3)(2-√3) ≈ 6.99. This hardness result complements our main result, where we show that when the objects are disks, of possibly differing radii, there is a (5+2√3)≈ 8.46 approximation algorithm. Additionally, for unit disks we give an O(n log k)+(k/ε)^O(k) time (1+ε)-approximation to the optimal radius, that is, an FPTAS for constant k whose running time depends only linearly on n. Finally, we show that the one dimensional version of the problem, even when intersections are allowed, can be solved exactly in O(n log n) time.

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