Discrete Differential Geometry (DDG) concerns discrete counterparts of notions and methods in differential geometry. This thesis deals with a core subject in DDG, discrete curvature theories on various types of polyhedral surfaces that are practically important for free-form architecture, sunlight-redirecting shading systems, and face recognition. Modeled as polyhedral surfaces, the shapes of free-form structures may have to satisfy different geometric or physical constraints. We study a combination of geometry and physics – the discrete surfaces that can stand on their own, as well as having proper shapes for the manufacture. These proper shapes, known as circular and conical meshes, are closely related to discrete principal curvatures. We study curvature theories that make such surfaces possible. Shading systems of freeform building skins are new types of energy-saving structures that can re-direct the sunlight. From these systems, discrete line congruences across polyhedral surfaces can be abstracted. We develop a new curvature theory for polyhedral surfaces equipped with normal congruences – a particular type of congruences defined by linear interpolation of vertex normals. The main results are a discussion of various definitions of normality, a detailed study of the geometry of such congruences, and a concept of curvatures and shape operators associated with the faces of a triangle mesh. These curvatures are compatible with both normal congruences and the Steiner formula. In addition to architecture, we consider the role of discrete curvatures in face recognition. We use geometric measure theory to introduce the notion of asymptotic cones associated with a singular subspace of a Riemannian manifold, which is an extension of the classical notion of asymptotic directions. We get a simple expression of these cones for polyhedral surfaces, as well as convergence and approximation theorems. We use the asymptotic cones as facial descriptors and demonstrate the practicability and accuracy of their applications in face recognition.
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