Relative-Absolute Information for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping * Shu Yun Chung

Han Pang Huang

Department of Mechanical Engineering National Taiwan University Taipei, Taiwan, 10617, R.O.C. [email protected]

Department of Mechanical Engineering National Taiwan University Taipei, Taiwan, 10617, R.O.C. [email protected]

AbstractIn this paper, a new algorithm, Relative-Absolute SLAM (RASLAM), is proposed to resolve the simultaneous localization and mapping problem. RASLAM utilizes relative and absolute information to estimate the robot pose and map in uncertain environment. Moreover, by combining different kinds of metric SLAM techniques, such as scanning matching, occupancy grid map, and feature-based SLAM, RASLAM can be applied to various unstructured surroundings. The experimental results show that RASLAM can achieve excellent performance even without odometry information in both outdoor and indoor environments. Index Terms – SLAM, mobile robot.



One of the fundamental features for an autonomous robot is the ability to locate its position. However, it would be impossible to achieve localization without map information in an unknown environment. On the contrary, it could not build the map incrementally without information of the robot position. In other words, localization and mapping should be addressed simultaneously. In the last two decades, Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) has become one of the most popular topics within robotics areas. SLAM requires a mobile robot to explore the unknown environment and localize its position by on-board sensors. The principal difficulties of SLAM arise from two parts. One is a sequence of noisy measurements obtained from a moving robot, the other is the uncertainty of robot motion. Both of them cause a deformed map and blurred localization. That is why it is always required to handle the localization and mapping “simultaneously.” In this paper, we combine different kinds of metric SLAM techniques to form a new approach called RASLAM (Relative-Absolute SLAM). The experiment results showed RASLAM is robust in outdoor and indoor environment. To make the idea of RASLAM clear, the characteristics of different SLAM methods are discussed in section II. The structure and detailed explanation of RASLAM are presented in section III. The experimental results are shown in section IV. Finally, conclusions are given in section V. 1

This work is supported by the Industrial Development Bureau, Ministry of Economic Affairs of R.O.C. under grants 95-EC-17-A-04-S1-054




Scan Matching The goal of scan matching is to find the relative pose between two scenes. In the SLAM problem, we can easily infer the relative motion of robot from scan matching. One of the popular methods in scan matching is ICP (Iterated Closest Point), which is widely adopted in robot localization. Given two sets of partially overlapping range image data and an appropriate initial estimate of their relative positions, the ICP approach iteratively computes a registration of these two range image. ICP tries to find a relative position of the two scans such that the mean squared error (MSE) given by the sum of the squared distances between the corresponding points is minimized. Many variants have also been proposed based on basic ICP concept [14]. 30






0 (b)


10 9




7 6

10 5










(c) (d) Fig. 1 Scan Matching , (a) environment image, (b) blue: reference range image; red: current range image, (c) the result of ICP, (d) the detailed range image (unit : meter ).

Although some papers addressed that ICP can efficiently deal with the SLAM problem, there are still some essential drawbacks in ICP. First, a good initial prediction of the transformation between scans is required. The inappropriate initial guess will easily cause the wrong matching pairs. And if there is no adequate overlap region between scans, it is also hard to estimate the correct relative motion. Moreover, although ICP adopts point to point matching strategy, the estimation of motion transformation is still dominated by large objects in the scenes. In other words, ICP can only provide coarse motion estimation compared to feature-based SLAM. For example, in Fig. 1, ICP can successfully find out most of the matching pairs and estimate the relative motion between two range images. However, the detailed image, in Fig. 1(d), shows that it is still hard to converge on small objects (trees). Finally, one of the biggest disadvantages for ICP is that it cannot maintain the uncertainty of the map even it can deal with robot localization very well. In general, it is additionally required to describe the map uncertainty with an occupancy grid map in scan matching. B.

Occupancy Grid Map Occupancy grid map was developed by Elfes and Moravec in the mid-Eighties [10]. As the name called, it divides the entire environment into regular grids which maintain the occupancy probability in each grid. The basic idea is based on recursive estimation for the occupied probability in the grids from sequentially observed data. Since the occupancy grid map assumes the individual grids are independent, it is easier to implement in different kinds of sensor models. It has been built by ultrasonic sensors, laser range finder, and stereo vision. Besides two-dimensional occupancy mapping, some researchers extended it to three-dimensional, volumetric maps [9], or used it to investigate localization and exploration while building grid map [5]. Moreover, because the grid map clearly represents the occupancy probability in individual grids, it can be used directly in robot motion planning, obstacle avoidance and navigation. C.

Feature-based SLAM A common feature-based SLAM approach is based on Extended Kalman filter (EKF). This approach can be traced back to a series of publications by Smith [12][13]. Kalman Filters are Bayes filters which represent posteriors with Gaussians. The robot pose and landmark position form the full state vector which is estimated by EKF at the same time. So far EKF is still one of the most popular approaches for SLAM. However, EKF-based approaches suffer from two important limitations: quadratic complexity and sensitivity to failures in data association. The quadratic complexity stems from the update stage in the EKF. It requires O ( K 2 ) updated computation even if just a single landmark is observed. It limits the number of landmarks

that can be handled by EKF. Moreover, EKF does not have the ability to present robust data association. One incorrect association can result in map divergence. To overcome those two limitations, lots of papers were proposed in different architectures and modifications. One of the most famous approaches to deal with these two disadvantages is the FastSLAM, which was proposed by Montemerlo and Thrun in 2003 [8]. FastSLAM adopts the Rao-Blackwellized particle filter as the principal architecture [11]. It decomposes the SLAM problem into a robot localization problem and a collection of landmark estimation problem. The experimental results in [8] showed that FastSLAM outperformed the traditional EKF both in computation and data association. Although FastSLAM solved the curse of feature quantities in EKF, it still suffered the unavoidable problem in feature-based SLAM. Certain features must be available in the environment. If no features are observed, the robot cannot do anything about localization and mapping. It is the fundamental problem in feature-based SLAM. D.

Comparison To figure out the differences among the approaches described so far, we list several criteria of SLAM in TABLE I for comparison. The criteria include the performance in unstructured environment, the accuracy for robot pose estimation, map uncertainty modeling, the completeness of map description, and the accuracy of map. The score is given by circle, triangle and cross. The circle indicates excellent performance. The triangle indicates it is acceptable, but not good enough. Poor performance is signified by cross. TABLE I S-M ○

G-M F-M Unstructured ○ X environment Robot trajectory ○ △ ○ estimation Map Uncertainty X ○ ○ Modeling Map Completeness ○ ○ △ Map accuracy △ △ ○ S-M: Scan Matching, G-M: Occupancy Grid Map F-M: Feature based SLAM



In [3], Chung introduced a new concept RAMF (Relative-Absolute Map Filter), which fuses the information of relative map and absolute map in feature map domain. From the simulation result, it shows that RAMF is more robust than EKF based SLAM and FastSLAM in noisy robot motion. In this paper, we extend the idea with the estimation of robot relative motion.

RASLAM estimates not only the relative and absolute information about the map, but the relative and absolute robot motion. To make it more robust, the occupancy grip map is also adopted for mapping and localization. The architecture of RASLAM is described in the following paragraphs.

expressed by Eq.(1) as

p( xk | z k , uk ) = p( xk | z grid ,k , z feature,k , u k )

(3) By the conditional independence, the second term of the right hand side in Eq.(2) can be decomposed as

p( M | xk , z k , u k ) = p ( M grid , M feature | x k , z grid ,k , z feature,k , u k ) = p ( M grid | x k , z grid ,k , z feature,k , u k )


p (M feature | xk , z grid ,k , z feature,k , u k ) = p ( M grid | x k , z grid ,k ) p( M feature | xk , z feature,k )

Fig. 2 Four kinds of information for robot localization in RASLAM.

To construct robust SLAM algorithm, RASLAM simultaneously maintains two kinds of maps, grip map M grid and feature map M feature . Both of them have their merits and demerits in different environments. Thus, RASLAM dexterously extracts useful information from these maps and estimates robot position with them. Given the robot path, both of the maps are conditionally independent. When the robot receives new observation z from the sensor, the observation will be split into two parts, z grid and z feature . Although there might be some coupled

Finally, according to Eqns.(2)(3)(4), the RASLAM can be described by Eq.(5). The first term in Eq. (5) is robot localization which is processed by GPF (Gaussian Particle Filter). The details for robot localization will be explained in the next section. The second and third terms describe the mapping process. It should be noticed that the grid map and feature map are conditionally independent when the robot path is given. Moreover, the robot relative motion u k is estimated by ICP and odometry.

p( x k , M | z k , u k ) = p ( x k | z grid , k , z feature,k , u k ) p ( M grid | x k , z grid , k )  

robot localization

grid map


p( M feature | x k , z feature,k ) 

feature map

effects between z grid and z feature due to coming from the same laser range image, we simply ignore them because of different modeling methods of them. In other words, the two kinds of observations are assumed to be independent in this paper. The idea can be presented by Eq.(1).

z k = z grid ,k + z feature ,k


M = M grid + M feature From the chain rule of probability, we can decompose SLAM problem into

p( x k , M | z k , u k ) = p( xk | z k , u k ) p( M | xk , z k , u k )


where x k : the robot pose at time step k u k : robot relative motion at time step k The first term of the right hand side in Eq.(2) can be


Localization in RASLAM In RASLAM, the GPF (Gaussian Particle Filter), which was proposed in [6], is adopted for robot localization. GPF is based on the particle filtering concept and it approximates the posterior distributions by Gaussian. Thus, it is easier to incorporate GPF with other Kalman filter based methods. Moreover, GPF still retains the multiple hypotheses property of particle filter which is more robust for localization problem. Compared to [3], there are two major differences in the GPF of RASLAM. First, the relative motion of robot is estimated by ICP and odometry. The estimation method we adopt is the one given by [7]. In this way, RASLAM can produce more precise particle position in the prediction process of GPF. Second, the robot receives two types of observations, observations from grid map and feature map. Both information are used to update particle weighting. Finally, the mean and covariance of the robot extracted by GPF can be applied to mapping. The procedures of GPF we adopt in RASLAM is summarized in TABLE II.

TABLE II The Procedures of GPF GPF – Prediction Process 1) Retain weighted particles obtained from measurement update process.





~ p( x k | x k −1 = x k(i−)1 , u k )


(i ) k −1

, ω~k(i−)1


i =1

2) For i = 1,….,N, sample particles from prediction model.

{x }

(i ) N k i =1

relative states separately since all the relative states can be considered as independence [4]. Even though RAMF estimates absolute map and relative map simultaneously, the computation for updating observed features is still constant. Clearly, map fusion will require more computation time. However, it can be executed at any appropriate instant such as loop closure.

GPF – Measurement Update Process 1) Update the respective weights by

ω k(i ) ∝ p( z k | x k(i ) ) = p ( z grid ,k , z feature ,k | x k( i ) )


= p ( z grid ,k | x k( i ) ) p( z feature ,k | x k(i ) ) Fig. 3 Relationship between absolute landmarks and relative states.

2) Normalize the weights as

ω~k(i ) = ω k(i )



( j) k


j =1

3) Estimate the mean and covariance by N

xˆ k+ = ∑ ω~k(i ) x ki i =1 N

Pˆk+ = ∑ ω~k(i ) ( x k( i ) − xˆ k+ )( x k(i ) − xˆ k+ ) T

(10) (a)

i =1

B. 1)

Mapping in RASLAM

Feature-based Mapping In RASLAM, we adopt RAMF (Relative-Absolute Map Filter)[3] to build the feature map. The RAMF, which is like a bridge, connects the RMF (Relative Map Filter) and the AMF (Absolute Map Filter). It manages the information and gets the higher accuracy by fusing RMF with AMF (Fig. 4). After fusion, AMF can obtain the information of relative states while RMF gets the data association. RAMF uses the information to predict and estimate the states of the robot and landmarks in the next step. The following paragraphs briefly introduce the idea of RAMF. In general, a robot can extracts two different kinds of information by its external perception. One is absolute information, the other is relative information (Fig. 3). By the intrinsic limitations of sensors, the relative information is sometimes derived from the absolute information. The main idea of RAMF is to estimate absolute map and relative map simultaneously. By fusing these two maps, it can create more accurate map. Since EKF suffers from the curse of quadratic complexity, we adopt the particle filter based method which has been proved that individual landmarks are conditionally independent if the robot path is given [8]. In other words, we can update landmarks individually. In contrast to AMF, RMF has no difficult to estimate



Fig. 4 (a) AMF, (b) RMF, (c) RAMF.


Grid-based Mapping The grid based mapping in RASLAM is adopted the general occupancy grid map update method. The detailed explanation can refer to [2]. IV.


The RASLAM algorithm described in the last sections has been tested in indoor and outdoor environments with different robot systems (REI, REII) which are designed by NTU Robotics Lab. Moreover, both tests are implemented without any odometry information. The only sensor we adopted is the laser range finder (SICK LMS320).

(b) (a) Fig. 5 (a) Robot Explorer I (REI), (b) Robot Explorer II (REII).


Indoor Environment The first experiment has been carried out in the indoor environment by using the robot REII. The environment consists of several corridors which is the “notorious” case in SLAM problem. It is hard to estimate the precise robot motion within the corridors since all the range images collected by the laser scanner are similar. The estimated error between two scans can be easily accumulated and lead to map divergence. The picture of tested indoor environment is represented in Fig. 6. The mapping range of the indoor environment is 100 x 50 meter. The total distance of robot trajectory is 217.5 meter. We have tested three different conditions respectively in the same data. The first one is to estimate robot pose and environment model only by ICP algorithm and draw the grid map by the estimated robot trajectory. In this case, only the relative motion of two adjacent range images is estimated. The result is shown in Fig. 7(a). Since there is no prior knowledge for initial guess in ICP matching process, the mapping result is really bad. In the second condition, not only the ICP estimation but the localization in grid map is adopted. The result is shown in Fig. 7(b). Finally, the RASLAM is applied to the indoor environment. The feature map and grid map are shown in Fig. 8(a)(b). It almost closes the looped area. Then, the globally consistent range scan alignment method proposed by Lu [7] is used to close the loop. The final result is displayed in Fig. 8(c). From the above results, it is clear that RASLAM dramatically improves the map accuracy even without odometry data.

(b) Fig. 7 (a) scan matching result. (b) scan matching with grid map correction.


(b) Fig. 6 indoor environment.


(c) Fig. 8 RASLAM results (a) feature map, (b) grid map, (c) closed loop.


Outdoor Environment The second experiment is implemented in outdoor environment. We utilize trees as features in RASLAM. The test environment is shown in Fig. 9. The moving objects in the environment are filtered out during SLAM process. The robot moves manually along a rectangular path. If the SLAM estimation is correct, the estimated trajectory will be a rectangle. The final results are displayed in Fig. 10(a)(b). The total travel distance is 125 meter and travel area is 50m x 10m.There are 74 observed features in this test. Moreover, the estimated path is also shown in Fig. 10(a). It is easy to tell that the trajectory converges to the rectangle using RASLAM. V.


In this paper, a hybrid SLAM method, RASLAM, is proposed. RASLAM exquisitely combines the advantages of different metric SLAM methods and produces more robust, accurate SLAM technique. To justify the robustness, we applied RASLAM to the indoor and outdoor environment without any odometry information. The experimental results showed that RASLAM gets better performance than general metric SLAM methods.

Fig. 9 outdoor tested environment 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -40





(a) *denotes tree




(b) Fig. 10 RASLAM outdoor test (a) feature map, (b) grid map.

REFERENCES [1] T. Bailey, “Mobile Robot Localization and Mapping in Extensive Outdoor Environments,”PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2002. [2] H. Choset, K.M. Lynch, S. Hutchinson, G. Kantor, W. Burgard, L. E. Kavraki, S. Thrun, Principles of Robot Motion – Theory, Algorithms, and Implementations. The MIT Press, 2005. [3] S.Y. Chung, H.P. Huang, ”Relative-Absolute Map Filter for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping,” IROS2006, pp. 436-441, 2006. [4] M. Csorba, “Simultaneous Localisation and Map Building,” PhD thesis, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, 1997. [5] F. Dellaert, D. Fox, W. Burgard, S. Thrun, ”Monte Carlo Localization for Mobile Robots,” ICRA1999, Vol.2, pp.1322-1328, 1999. [6] J. H. Kotecha and P. M. Djuric´, ”Gaussian Particle Filtering,” IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing, vol.51, pp.2592-2601 2003. [7] F. Lu and E. Milios, "Globally Consistent Range Scan Alignment for Environment Mapping," Autonomous Robots, vol. 4, pp. 333--349, 1997. [8] M. Montemerlo, ”FastSLAM: A Factored Solution to the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping Problem With Unknown Data Association,” PhD thesis, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, 2003. [9] H.P. Moravec and M.C. Martin, ”Robot Navigation by 3D Spatial Evidence Grids,” Mobile Robot Laboratory, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, 1994. [10] H. P. Moravec, ”Sensor Fusion in Certainty Grids for Mobile Robots,” AI Magazine, Vol.9, pp, 61–74, 1988. [11] K. Murphy and S. Russell, ”Rao-Blackwellised Particle Filtering for Dynamic Bayesian Networks,” Sequential Monte Carlo Methods in Practice, Chapter 24, pp. 499-515, Springer-Verlag, 2001. [12] R. C. Smith, M. Self, and P. Cheeseman, “On the Representation of Spatial Uncertainty,” Int. J. Robotics Research, vol. 5, pp.56-68, 1987. [13] R. Smith, M. Self, and P. Cheeseman,” Estimating uncertain spatial relationships in robotics,” in Autonomous Robot Vehnicles edited by I.J. Cox and G.T. Wilfong, pp. 167–193. Springer-Verlag, 1990. [14] S. Rusinkiewicz, M. Levoy, ”Efficient Variants of The ICP Algorithm,” the 3rd International Conference on 3-D Digital Imaging and Modeling, pp. 145-152, 2001.

Relative-Absolute Information for Simultaneous Localization and ...

That is why it is always required to handle the localization and mapping. “simultaneously.” In this paper, we combine different kinds of metric. SLAM techniques to form a new approach called. RASLAM (Relative-Absolute SLAM). The experiment results showed RASLAM is robust in outdoor and indoor environment. To make ...

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