Three-dimensional mapping with time-of-flight cameras



This article investigates the use of time-of-flight (ToF) cameras in mapping tasks for autonomous mobile robots, in particular in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) tasks. Although ToF cameras are in principle an attractive type of sensor for three-dimensional (3D) mapping owing to their high rate of frames of 3D data, two features make them difficult as mapping sensors, namely, their restricted field of view and influences on the quality of range measurements by high dynamics in object reflectivity; in addition, currently available models suffer from poor data quality in a number of aspects. The paper first summarizes calibration and filtering approaches for improving the accuracy, precision, and robustness of ToF cameras independent of their intended usage. Then, several ego motion estimation approaches are applied or adapted, respectively, in order to provide a performance benchmark for registering ToF camera data. As a part of this, an extension to the iterative closest point algorithm has been developed that increases the robustness under restricted field of view and under larger displacements. Using an indoor environment, the paper provides results from SLAM experiments using these approaches in comparison. It turns out that the application of ToF cameras is feasible to SLAM tasks, although this type of sensor has a complex error characteristic. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.