Cubic Spline Interpolation

Cubic spline interpolation is a simple way to obtain a smooth curve from a set of discrete points (knots). It has both C1 (first derivative) and C2 (second derivative) continuity, enabling it to produce a continuous piecewise function given a set of data points.

From the algorithm detailed here I have implemented a clamped cubic spline class in C++. It is templated on the type of X and Y, allowing for use of scalar or vector types. It requires only that X and Y define the operators +, -, *, and /, and that Y have a constructor that takes a single scalar argument, initializing all elements to the supplied value.

Usage is very simple. For example, to interpolate a 2D location over time, try this:

#import "glm.hpp"
#import <vector>

std::vector<float> times;
std::vector<glm::vec2> points;
points.push_back(glm::vec2(-303, -572));
points.push_back(glm::vec2(-250, -980));

/* Create the spline interpolating the position over time */
Spline<float, glm::vec2> sp(times, points);

/* Compute the interpolated position at time 0.75f */
glm::vec2 value(sp[.75f]);

The code for the spline class is below:

/* "THE BEER-WARE LICENSE" (Revision 42): Devin Lane wrote this file. As long as you retain 
 * this notice you can do whatever you want with this stuff. If we meet some day, and you
 * think this stuff is worth it, you can buy me a beer in return. */

#include <vector>
#include <iostream>

/** Templated on type of X, Y. X and Y must have operator +, -, *, /. Y must have defined
 * a constructor that takes a scalar. */
template <typename X, typename Y>
class Spline {
    /** An empty, invalid spline */
    Spline() {}
    /** A spline with x and y values */
    Spline(const std::vector<X>& x, const std::vector<Y>& y) {
        if (x.size() != y.size()) {
            std::cerr << "X and Y must be the same size " << std::endl;
        if (x.size() < 3) {
            std::cerr << "Must have at least three points for interpolation" << std::endl;
        typedef typename std::vector<X>::difference_type size_type;
        size_type n = y.size() - 1;
        std::vector<Y> b(n), d(n), a(n), c(n+1), l(n+1), u(n+1), z(n+1);
        std::vector<X> h(n+1);

        l[0] = Y(1);
        u[0] = Y(0);
        z[0] = Y(0);
        h[0] = x[1] - x[0];
        for (size_type i = 1; i < n; i++) {
            h[i] = x[i+1] - x[i];
            l[i] = Y(2 * (x[i+1] - x[i-1])) - Y(h[i-1]) * u[i-1];
            u[i] = Y(h[i]) / l[i];
            a[i] = (Y(3) / Y(h[i])) * (y[i+1] - y[i]) - (Y(3) / Y(h[i-1])) * (y[i] - y[i-1]);
            z[i] = (a[i] - Y(h[i-1]) * z[i-1]) / l[i];
        l[n] = Y(1);
        z[n] = c[n] = Y(0);
        for (size_type j = n-1; j >= 0; j--) {
            c[j] = z[j] - u[j] * c[j+1];
            b[j] = (y[j+1] - y[j]) / Y(h[j]) - (Y(h[j]) * (c[j+1] + Y(2) * c[j])) / Y(3);
            d[j] = (c[j+1] - c[j]) / Y(3 * h[j]);
        for (size_type i = 0; i < n; i++) {
            mElements.push_back(Element(x[i], y[i], b[i], c[i], d[i]));
    virtual ~Spline() {}
    Y operator[](const X& x) const {
        return interpolate(x);
    Y interpolate(const X&x) const {
        if (mElements.size() == 0) return Y();
        typename std::vector<element_type>::const_iterator it;
        it = std::lower_bound(mElements.begin(), mElements.end(), element_type(x));
        if (it != mElements.begin()) {
        return it->eval(x);
    std::vector<Y> operator[](const std::vector<X>& xx) const {
        return interpolate(xx);
    /* Evaluate at multiple locations, assuming xx is sorted ascending */
    std::vector<Y> interpolate(const std::vector<X>& xx) const {
        if (mElements.size() == 0) return std::vector<Y>(xx.size());
        typename std::vector<X>::const_iterator it;
        typename std::vector<element_type>::const_iterator it2;
        it2 = mElements.begin();
        std::vector<Y> ys;
        for (it = xx.begin(); it != xx.end(); it++) {
            it2 = std::lower_bound(it2, mElements.end(), element_type(*it));
            if (it2 != mElements.begin()) {

        return ys;

    class Element {
        Element(X _x) : x(_x) {}
        Element(X _x, Y _a, Y _b, Y _c, Y _d)
        : x(_x), a(_a), b(_b), c(_c), d(_d) {}
        Y eval(const X& xx) const {
            X xix(xx - x);
            return a + b * xix + c * (xix * xix) + d * (xix * xix * xix);
        bool operator<(const Element& e) const {
            return x < e.x;
        bool operator<(const X& xx) const {
            return x < xx;
        X x;
        Y a, b, c, d;
    typedef Element element_type;
    std::vector<element_type> mElements;

Posted in Computer Vision, Software | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Cubic Spline Interpolation

  1. Linzy Cumbia says:

    How would I get results out of this to use them to draw a graph on a UIView in Objective-C?

  2. Il Jae Lee says:

    Thank you so much for posting such code.
    This will be so much helpful.

  3. Giovanni says:

    Thanks for posting this!
    Finally after more than one month I’ve finally been able to implement the CubicSpline interpolation!!!

  4. Guy says:

    Thank you for the code !

    It works great

  5. khan says:

    How one can use that class. Could any body help to provide the main code. regards

  6. Ali Alsaqqa says:

    Thanks. Is there any usage example?

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