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This paper presents a general method for exact distance computation between convex objects represented as intersections of implicit surfaces. Exact distance computation algorithms are particularly important for applications involving objects that make intermittent contact, such as in dynamic simulations and in haptic interactions. They can also be used in the narrow phase of hierarchical collision detection. In contrast to geometric approaches developed for polyhedral objects, we formulate the distance computation problem as a convex optimization problem. We use an interior point method to solve the optimization problem and demonstrate that, for general convex objects represented as implicit surfaces, interior point approaches are globally convergent, and fast in practice. Further, they provide polynomial-time guarantees for implicit surface objects when the implicit surfaces have self-concordant barrier functions. We use a primal-dual interior point algorithm that solves the Karush-Kuhn-Tucker (KKT) conditions obtained from the convex programming formulation. For the case of polyhedra and quadrics, we establish a theoretical time complexity of O(n1.5), where n is the number of constraints. We present implementation results for example implicit surface objects, including polyhedra, quadrics, and generalizations of quadrics such as superquadrics and hyperquadrics, as well as intersections of these surfaces. We demonstrate that in practice, the algorithm takes time linear in the number of constraints, and that distance computation rates of about 1 kHz can be achieved. We also extend the approach to proximity queries between deforming convex objects. Finally, we show that continuous collision detection for linearly translating objects can be performed by solving two related convex optimization problems. For polyhedra and quadrics, we establish that the computational complexity of this problem is also O(n1.5).