Discrete-Continuous Smoothing and Mapping

by   Kevin J. Doherty, et al.

We describe a general approach to smoothing and mapping with a class of discrete-continuous factor graphs commonly encountered in robotics applications. While there are openly available tools providing flexible and easy-to-use interfaces for specifying and solving optimization problems formulated in terms of either discrete or continuous graphical models, at present, no similarly general tools exist enabling the same functionality for hybrid discrete-continuous problems. We aim to address this problem. In particular, we provide a library, DC-SAM, extending existing tools for optimization problems defined in terms of factor graphs to the setting of discrete-continuous models. A key contribution of our work is a novel solver for efficiently recovering approximate solutions to discrete-continuous optimization problems. The key insight to our approach is that while joint inference over continuous and discrete state spaces is often hard, many commonly encountered discrete-continuous problems can naturally be split into a "discrete part" and a "continuous part" that can individually be solved easily. Leveraging this structure, we optimize discrete and continuous variables in an alternating fashion. In consequence, our proposed work enables straightforward representation of and approximate inference in discrete-continuous graphical models. We also provide a method to recover the uncertainty in estimates of both discrete and continuous variables. We demonstrate the versatility of our approach through its application to three distinct robot perception applications: point-cloud registration, robust pose graph optimization, and object-based mapping and localization.


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