Advances in Inference and Representation for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping

03/08/2021
by   David M. Rosen, et al.
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Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) is the process of constructing a global model of an environment from local observations of it; this is a foundational capability for mobile robots, supporting such core functions as planning, navigation, and control. This article reviews recent progress in SLAM, focusing on advances in the expressive capacity of the environmental models used in SLAM systems (representation) and the performance of the algorithms used to estimate these models from data (inference). A prominent theme of recent SLAM research is the pursuit of environmental representations (including learned representations) that go beyond the classical attributes of geometry and appearance to model properties such as hierarchical organization, affordance, dynamics, and semantics; these advances equip autonomous agents with a more comprehensive understanding of the world, enabling more versatile and intelligent operation. A second major theme is a revitalized interest in the mathematical properties of the SLAM estimation problem itself (including its computational and information-theoretic performance limits); this work has led to the development of novel classes of certifiable and robust inference methods that dramatically improve the reliability of SLAM systems in real-world operation. We survey these advances with an emphasis on their ramifications for achieving robust, long-duration autonomy, and conclude with a discussion of open challenges and a perspective on future research directions.

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