Computer Engineering | Robotics
Visual homing is a navigation method based on comparing a stored image of the goal location and the current image (current view) to determine how to navigate to the goal location. It is theorized that insects, such as ants and bees, employ visual homing methods to return to their nest . Visual homing has been applied to autonomous robot platforms using two main approaches: holistic and feature-based. Both methods aim at determining distance and direction to the goal location. Navigational algorithms using Scale Invariant Feature Transforms (SIFT) have gained great popularity in the recent years due to the robustness of the feature operator. Churchill and Vardy  have developed a visual homing method using scale change information (Homing in Scale Space, HiSS) from SIFT. HiSS uses SIFT feature scale change information to determine distance between the robot and the goal location. Since the scale component is discrete with a small range of values , the result is a rough measurement with limited accuracy. We have developed a method that uses stereo data, resulting in better homing performance. Our approach utilizes a pantilt based stereo camera, which is used to build composite wide-field images. We use the wide-field images combined with stereo-data obtained from the stereo camera to extend the keypoint vector described in  to include a new parameter, depth (z). Using this info, our algorithm determines the distance and orientation from the robot to the goal location. We compare our method with HiSS in a set of indoor trials using a Pioneer 3-AT robot equipped with a BumbleBee2 stereo camera. We evaluate the performance of both methods using a set of performance measures described in this paper.
Nirmal, Paramesh and Lyons, Damian M., "Visual homing with a pan-tilt based stereo camera" (2013). Faculty Publications. 15.