Ananth Ranganathan, Michael Kaess, Frank Dellaert
Smoothing approaches to the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) problem in robotics are superior to the more common filtering approaches in being exact, better equipped to deal with non-linearities, and computing the entire robot trajectory. However, while filtering algorithms that perform map updates in constant time exist, no analogous smoothing method is available. We aim to rectify this situation by presenting a smoothing-based solution to SLAM using Loopy Belief Propagation (LBP) that can perform the trajectory and map updates in constant time except when a loop is closed in the environment. The SLAM problem is represented as a Gaussian Markov Random Field (GMRF) over which LBP is performed. We prove that LBP, in this case, is equivalent to Gauss-Seidel relaxation of a linear system. The inability to compute marginal covariances efficiently in a smoothing algorithm has previously been a stumbling block to their widespread use. LBP enables the efficient recovery of the marginal covariances, albeit approximately, of landmarks and poses. While the final covariances are overconfident, the ones obtained from a spanning tree of the GMRF are conservative, making them useful for data association. Experiments in simulation and using real data are presented.