How to calculate the average of a set of circular data?

algorithmgeometrymath

I want to calculate the average of a set of circular data. For example, I might have several samples from the reading of a compass. The problem of course is how to deal with the wraparound. The same algorithm might be useful for a clockface.

The actual question is more complicated – what do statistics mean on a sphere or in an algebraic space which "wraps around", e.g. the additive group mod n. The answer may not be unique, e.g. the average of 359 degrees and 1 degree could be 0 degrees or 180, but statistically 0 looks better.

This is a real programming problem for me and I'm trying to make it not look like just a Math problem.

Best Solution

Compute unit vectors from the angles and take the angle of their average.