The emerging field of discrete differential geometry (DDG) studies discrete analogues of smooth geometric objects, providing an essential link between analytical descriptions and computation. In recent years it has unearthed a rich variety of new perspectives on applied problems in computational anatomy/biology, computational mechanics, industrial design, computational architecture, and digital geometry processing at large. You may want to check out our publications to get a feel.
The basic philosophy of discrete differential geometry is that a discrete object like a polyhedron is not merely an approximation of a smooth one, but rather a differential geometric object in its own right. In contrast to traditional numerical analysis which focuses on eliminating approximation error in the limit of refinement (e.g., by taking smaller and smaller finite differences), DDG places an emphasis on the so-called ``mimetic'' viewpoint, where key properties of a system are preserved exactly, independent of how large or small the elements of a mesh might be. Just as algorithms for simulating mechanical systems might seek to exactly preserve physical invariants such as total energy or momentum, structure-preserving models of discrete geometry seek to exactly preserve global geometric invariants such as total curvature. More broadly, DDG focuses on the discretization of objects that do not naturally fall under the umbrella of traditional numerical analysis.
— AMS Notices 11/2017.