Electrical and Computer Engineering
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Dissertation Defense

Long-Term Simultaneous Localization and Mapping in Dynamic Environments

Nicholas Carlevaris-Bianco

One of the core competencies required for autonomous mobile robotics is the ability to use sensors to perceive the environment. From this noisy sensor data, the robot must build a representation of the environment and localize itself within this representation. This process, known as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), is a prerequisite for higher-level autonomous behavior in many robotic applications. SLAM has been well studied under the assumptions that the robot operates for a relatively short time period and that the environment is essentially static during operation. However, performing SLAM over long time periods while modeling the dynamic changes in the environment remains a challenge. The goal of this thesis is to extend the capabilities of SLAM to enable long-term autonomous operation in dynamic environments. The contribution of this thesis has three main components: First, we propose a framework for controlling the computational complexity of the SLAM optimization problem so that it does not grow unbounded with exploration time. Second, we present a method to learn visual feature descriptors that are more robust to changes in lighting, allowing for improved data association in dynamic environments. Finally, we use the proposed sparse-approximate marginalization and learned visual features in a SLAM system that explicitly models the dynamics of the environment in the map by representing each location as a set of example views that capture how the location changes with time.

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