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A novel, physically motivated deformable model for shape recovery and segmentation is presented. The model, referred to as the charged-particle model (CPM), is inspired by classical electrodynamics and is based on a simulation of charged particles moving in an electrostatic field. The charges are attracted towards the contours of the objects of interest by an electrostatic field, whose sources are computed based on the gradient-magnitude image. The electric field plays the same role as the potential forces in the snake model, while internal interactions are modeled by repulsive Coulomb forces. We demonstrate the flexibility and potential of the model in a wide variety of settings: shape recovery using manual initialization, automatic segmentation, and skeleton computation. We perform a comparative analysis of the proposed model with the active contour model and show that specific problems of the latter are surmounted by our model. The model is easily extendable to 3D and copes well with noisy images.