The Travelling Salesman Portrait

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road (Stephen Hawking)

Imagine a salesman and a set of cities. The salesman has to visit each one of the cities starting from a certain one and returning to the same city. The challenge is finding the route which minimizes the total length of the trip. This is the Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP): one of the most profoundly studied questions in computational mathematics. Since you can find a huge amount of articles about the TSP in the Internet, I will not give more details about it here.

In this experiment I apply an heuristic algorithm to solve the TSP to draw a portrait. The idea is pretty simple:

  • Load a photo
  • Convert it to black and white
  • Choose a sample of black points
  • Solve the TSP to calculate a route among the points
  • Plot the route

The result is a single line drawing of the image that you loaded. To solve the TSP I used the arbitrary insertion heuristic algorithm (Rosenkrantz et al. 1977), which is quite efficient.

To illustrate the idea, I have used again this image of Frankenstein (I used it before in this other experiment). This is the result:

You can find the code here.

4 thoughts on “The Travelling Salesman Portrait

  1. Cool! But I think this post is a trap to get nerds to say “Frankenstein is the name of the scientist, not the monster”, and I won’t be falling for that.

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