Relations Between Spatial Calculi About Directions and Orientations

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Qualitative spatial descriptions characterize essential properties of spatial objects or configurations by relying on relative comparisons rather than measuring. Typically, in qualitative approaches only relatively coarse distinctions between configurations are made. Qualitative spatial knowledge can be used to represent incomplete and underdetermined knowledge in a systematic way. This is especially useful if the task is to describe features of classes of configurations rather than individual configurations.

Although reasoning with them is generally NP-hard, relative directions are important because they play a key role in human spatial descriptions and there are several approaches how to represent them using qualitative methods. In these approaches directions between spatial locations can be expressed as constraints over infinite domains, e.g. the Euclidean plane. The theory of relation algebras has been successfully applied to this field. Viewing relation algebras as universal algebras and applying and modifying standard tools from universal algebra in this work, we (re)define notions of qualitative constraint calculus, of homomorphism between calculi, and of quotient of calculi. Based on this method we derive important properties for spatial calculi from corresponding properties of related calculi. From a conceptual point of view these formal mappings between calculi are a means to translate between different granularities.

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