Kalman Filter-based Algorithms for Estimating Depth from Image Sequences

International Journal of Computer Vision | , Vol 3(3): pp. 209-238


Using known camera motion to estimate depth from image sequences is an important problem in robot vision. Many applications of depth-from-motion, including navigation and manipulation, require algorithms that can estimate depth in an on-line, incremental fashion. This requires a representation that records the uncertainty in depth estimates and a mechanism that integrates new measurements with existing depth estimates to reduce the uncertainty over time. Kalman filtering provides this mechanism. Previous applications of Kalman filtering to depth-from-motion have been limited to estimating depth at the location of a sparse set of features. In this paper, we introduce a new, pixel-based (iconic) algorithm that estimates depth and depth uncertainty at each pixel and incrementally refines these estimates over time. We describe the algorithm and contrast its formulation and performance to that of a feature-based Kalman filtering algorithm. We compare the performance of the two approaches by analyzing their theoretical convergence rates, by conducting quantitative experiments with images of a flat poster, and by conducting qualitative experiments with images of a realistic outdoor-scene model. The results show that the new method is an effective way to extract depth from lateral camera translations. This approach can be extended to incorporate general motion and to integrate other sources of information, such as stereo. The algorithms we have developed, which combine Kalman filtering with iconic descriptions of depth, therefore can serve as a useful and general framework for low-level dynamic vision.