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Ricci flow is a powerful curvature flow method, which is invariant to rigid motion, scaling, isometric, and conformal deformations. We present the first application of surface Ricci flow in computer vision. Previous methods based on conformal geometry, which only handle 3D shapes with simple topology, are subsumed by the Ricci flow-based method, which handles surfaces with arbitrary topology. We present a general framework for the computation of Ricci flow, which can design any Riemannian metric by user-defined curvature. The solution to Ricci flow is unique and robust to noise. We provide implementation details for Ricci flow on discrete surfaces of either Euclidean or hyperbolic background geometry. Our Ricci flow-based method can convert all 3D problems into 2D domains and offers a general framework for 3D shape analysis. We demonstrate the applicability of this intrinsic shape representation through standard shape analysis problems, such as 3D shape matching and registration, and shape indexing. Surfaces with large nonrigid anisotropic deformations can be registered using Ricci flow with constraints of feature points and curves. We show how conformal equivalence can be used to index shapes in a 3D surface shape space with the use of Teichmuller space coordinates. Experimental results are shown on 3D face data sets with large expression deformations and on dynamic heart data.