Towards a Reliable SLAM Back-End

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Conference Proceeding
IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2013, pp. 37 - 43
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In the state-of-the-art approaches to SLAM, the problem is often formulated as a non-linear least squares. SLAM back-ends often employ iterative methods such as Gauss-Newton or Levenberg-Marquardt to solve that problem. In general, there is no guarantee on the global convergence of these methods. The back-end might get trapped into a local minimum or even diverge depending on how good the initial estimate is. Due to the large noise in odometry data, it is not wise to rely on dead reckoning for obtaining an initial guess, especially in long trajectories. In this paper we demonstrate how M-estimation can be used as a bootstrapping technique to obtain a reliable initial guess. We show that this initial guess is more likely to be in the basin of attraction of the global minimum than existing bootstrapping methods. As the main contribution of this paper, we present new insights about the similarities between robustness against outliers and robustness against a bad initial guess. Through simulations and experiments on real data, we substantiate the reliability of our proposed method.
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