Reconstructing Point Sets from Distance Distributions

Shuai Huang, Ivan Dokmanic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We address the problem of reconstructing a set of points on a line or a loop from their unassigned noisy pairwise distances. When the points lie on a line, the problem is known as the turnpike; when they are on a loop, it is known as the beltway. We approximate the problem by discretizing the domain and representing the N points via an N-hot encoding, which is a density supported on the discretized domain. We show how the distance distribution is then simply a collection of quadratic functionals of this density and propose to recover the point locations so that the estimated distance distribution matches the measured distance distribution. This can be cast as a constrained nonconvex optimization problem which we solve using projected gradient descent with a suitable spectral initializer. We derive conditions under which the proposed distance distribution matching approach locally converges to a global optimizer at a linear rate. Compared to the conventional backtracking approach, our method jointly reconstructs all the point locations and is robust to noise in the measurements. We substantiate these claims with state-of-the-art performance across a number of numerical experiments. Our method is the first practical approach to solve the large-scale noisy beltway problem where the points lie on a loop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9371388
Pages (from-to)1811-1827
Number of pages17
JournalIEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
StatePublished - 2021


  • System of quadratic equations
  • distance geometry
  • projected gradient descent
  • spectral initialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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