A Thousand Kilometers of Appearance-Only SLAM

I’m off to RSS 2009 in Seattle next week to present a new paper on FAB-MAP, our appearance-based navigation system. For the last year I’ve been hard at work on pushing the scale of the system. Our initial approach from 2007 could handle trajectories about 1km long. This year, we’re presenting a new system that we demonstrate doing real-time place recognition over a 1,000km trajectory. In terms of accuracy, the 1,000km result seems to be on the edge of what we can do, however at around the 100km scale performance is really rather good. Some video results below.

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One of the hardest things to get right was simply gathering the 1,000km dataset. The physical world is unforgiving! Everything breaks. I’ll have a few posts about the trials of building the data collection system over the next few days.

Amazon Buys SnapTell

So the visual search story of the day is that Amazon has acquired SnapTell. This is a really natural fit – SnapTell have solid technology, and Amazon are one of the best use cases. Not too surprised to hear the deal has been done – SnapTell has been conspicuously quiet for several months, and word was that they either had to exit or secure another funding round before the end of the year. So congratulations are in order to everyone at SnapTell on securing what seems like an ideal exit.

The big question now is how this changes the playing field for other companies in the visual search space. I would assume Amazon will move SnapTell’s focus away from their enhanced print advertising service and concentrate on image recognition for books, CDs, DVD, etc. (Up to now, Amazon has been doing this with human-powered image recognition, which was nuts.) While this makes perfect sense for Amazon, it’s going to mean more rather than less opportunities for companies still focused on the general visual search market.

So¬† I guess this is an ideal point to mention the open secret that I’m currently co-founding Plink, a new visual search engine similar in capability to SnapTell. While our demo shows some familiar use cases, we’re working on taking the technology in some entirely new directions. Visual search is very young, there’s a whole lot still to do! Anyone interested in visual search, feel free to contact me.

Autonomous Marathon!

Congratulations to everyone at Willow Garage for reaching Milestone 2 in the development of the PR2 robot. 26.2 miles of autonomous indoor navigation, including opening eight doors and plugging in to nine power sockets. We’ve been watching the video in the lab with serious robot envy. Very cool!

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