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Fast element access for multi-dimensional representation of contiguous array

user2641 Published in April 27, 2018, 6:52 am

I have a multi-dimensional array represented contiguously in memory. I want to keep this representation hidden and just let the user access the array elements as if it were a multi-dimensional one: e.g. my_array[0][3][5] or my_array(0,3,5) or something similar. The dimensions of the object are not determined until runtime, but the object is created with a type that specifies how many dimensions it has. This element look-up will need to be called billions of times, and so should hopefully involve minimal overhead for each call.

I have looked at similar questions but not really found a good solution. Using the [] operator requires the creation of N-1 dimensional objects, which is fine for multi-dimensional structures like vectors-of-vectors because the object already exists, but for a contiguous array it seems like it would get convoluted very quickly and require some kind of slicing through the original array.

I have also looked at overloading (), which seems more promising, but requires specifying the number of arguments, which will vary depending upon the number of dimensions of the array. I have thought about using list initialization or vectors, but wanted to avoid instantiating objects.

I am only a little familiar with templates and figure that there should be some way with C++'s majestic template powers to specify a unique overloading of () for arrays with different types (e.g. different numbers of dimensions). But I have only used templates in really basic generic cases like making a function use both float and double.

I am imagining something like this:

template<typename TDim>
class MultiArray {
  MultiArray() {} //build some things
  ~MultiArray() {} //destroy some things

  // The number of arguments would be == to TDim for the instantiated class
  float& operator() (int dim1, int dim2, ...) {
    //convert to contiguous index and return ref to element
    // I believe the conversion equation is something like:
    // dim1 + Maxdim1 * ( dim2 + MaxDim2 * ( dim3 + MaxDim3 * (...)))

  vector<float> internal_array;
  vector<int> MaxDimX; // Each element says how large each corresponding dim is.

So if I initialize this class and attempted to access an element, it would look something like this:

my_array = MultiArray<4>();
element = my_array(2,5,4,1);

How might I go about doing this using templates? Is this even possible?

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