TagSLAM

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TagSLAM: Flexible SLAM with tags

TagSLAM is a ROS based package for simultaneous multi-camera localization and mapping (SLAM) with the popular AprilTags. In essence TagSLAM is a front-end to the GTSAM optimizer which makes it easy to use AprilTags for visual SLAM. For more technical details, have a look at this draft paper.

If you have a standard visual SLAM problem and want to use fiducial markers, you should probably NOT use TagSLAM because there are packages out there that are better suited. Consider for instance using UcoSLAM (disclosure: I haven’t actually used it yet). It runs in real-time, and uses keyframes, which should make it scale to larger trajectories. Unlike TagSLAM, it can use both, features in the wild, and tags for loop closure, not just tags. It’s a one-stop shop. Also TagSLAM can really only be used in real-time for relatively short trajectories, or if the mapping is done beforehand such that the location of the tags is known.

If TagSLAM is really inferior at hard core SLAM, then why should you ever use it? Here’s an example of TagSLAM being used to map tags in a dark tunnel, and localize a hexacopter, solely off of the tags:

There are hardly any features visible on the walls of the tunnel, meaning SLAM has to work off of the tags only. Few SLAM systems can support 4 cameras, but TagSLAM supports a virtually arbitrary number of cameras. In this example, there is no overlap between the field of view of some cameras, but TagSLAM can handle the extrinsic calibration of all cameras.

But really, the biggest reason to use TagSLAM is its flexibility. You can for instance combine VIO odometry from another component and feed it into TagSLAM, along with synchronized images (see section on Caveats and Limitations), to arrive at a loop-closed trajectory. Or you can have multiple robots carrying cameras. Or you can do state estimation, i.e. stick tags on objects and track their poses optically, without using a motion capture system. And you can do this while the camera is moving as well. Have a look below at some of the examples.

Mapping

Walk around with a camera and discover tag poses whenever multiple tags are visible in the same frame.

Localization

If you have the tags mapped already, you can enter their poses as fixed input, and now just localize off those tags.

Loop closing on visual odometry

If a visual/inertial odometry trajectory and the tag detections are computed from the same camera frames, TagSLAM can perform loop closure. In the following video, the tags have been mapped beforehand with a laser pointer.

Extrinsic camera calibration

TagSLAM supports synchronized (only!) multi-camera systems, and therefore can be used to find the relative poses of multiple cameras. No special calibration target is needed other than AprilTags scattered around. No overlap between the cameras field of view is required.

State estimation

Pose estimation of block from single, moving camera

TagSLAM can estimate the pose of an object that has tags attached to it. Here an example of a block pose estimation:

Pose estimation of wand with eight static cameras

Another example of state estimation, at the UPenn Aviary, using 8 stationary cameras that are extrinsically calibrated off AprilTag boards, while simultaneously localizing a moving wand with tags attached to it: