HIO-SDF: Hierarchical Incremental Online Signed Distance Fields


A good representation of a large, complex mobile robot workspace must be space-efficient yet capable of encoding relevant geometric details. When exploring unknown environments, it needs to be updatable incrementally in an online fashion. We introduce HIO-SDF, a new method that represents the environment as a Signed Distance Field (SDF). State of the art representations of SDFs are based on either neural networks or voxel grids. Neural networks are capable of representing the SDF continuously. However, they are hard to update incrementally as neural networks tend to forget previously observed parts of the environment unless an extensive sensor history is stored for training. Voxel-based representations do not have this problem but they are not space-efficient especially in large environments with fine details. HIO-SDF combines the advantages of these representations using a hierarchical approach which employs a coarse voxel grid that captures the observed parts of the environment together with high-resolution local information to train a neural network. HIO-SDF achieves a 46% lower mean global SDF error across all test scenes than a state of the art continuous representation, and a 30% lower error than a discrete representation at the same resolution as our coarse global SDF grid.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
Vasileios Vasilopoulos
Vasileios Vasilopoulos
Principal Software Engineer