Nonparametric Directional Perception

1 minute read

Artificial perception systems, like autonomous cars and augmented reality headsets, rely on dense 3D sensing technology such as RGB-D cameras and LiDAR scanners. Due to the structural simplicity of man-made environments, understanding and leveraging not only the 3D data but also the local orientations of the constituent surfaces, has huge potential. From an indoor scene to large-scale urban environments, a large fraction of the surfaces can be described by just a few planes with even fewer different normal directions. This sparsity is evident in the surface normal distributions, which exhibit a small number of concentrated clusters. In this work, I draw a rigorous connection between surface normal distributions and 3D structure, and explore this connection in light of different environmental assumptions to further 3D perception. Specifically, I propose the concepts of the Manhattan Frame and the unconstrained directional segmentation. These capture, in the space of surface normals, scenes composed of multiple Manhattan Worlds and more general Stata Center Worlds, in which the orthogonality assumption of the Manhattan World is not applicable. This exploration is theoretically founded in Bayesian nonparametric models, which capture two key properties of the 3D sensing process of an artificial perception system: (1) the inherent sequential nature of data acquisition and (2) that the required model complexity grows with the amount of observed data. Herein, I derive inference algorithms for directional clustering and segmentation which inherently exploit and respect these properties. The fundamental insights gleaned from the connection between surface normal distributions and 3D structure lead to practical advances in scene segmentation, drift-free rotation estimation, global point cloud registration and real-time direction-aware 3D reconstruction to aid artificial perception systems.


  author       = {Straub, Julian}, 
  title        = {Nonparametric Directional Perception},
  school       = {Massachusetts Institute of Technology},
  year         = 2017,
  address      = {77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139},
  month        = 5,