In this paper we describe a new efficient (in fact optimal)data structure for the top-K color problem. Each element of an array A is assigned a color c with priority p(c). For a query range [a, b] and a value K, we have to report K colors with the highest priorities among all colors that occur in A[a..b], sorted in reverse order by their priorities. We show that such queries can be answered in O(K) time using an O(N log σ) bits data structure, where N is the number of elements in the array and σ is the number of colors. Thus our data structure is asymptotically optimal with respect to the worst-case query time and space. As an immediate application of our results, we obtain optimal time solutions for several document retrieval problems. The method of the paper could be also of independent interest.
(Based on a paper by Marek Karpinski and Yakov Nekrich from SODA 2011.)