In this work we introduce Natural Segmentation and Matching (NSM), an algorithm for reliable localization, using laser, in both urban and natural environments. Current state-of-the-art global approaches do not generalize well to structure-poor vegetated areas such as forests or orchards where clutter and perceptual aliasing prevents reliable extraction of repeatable and distinctive landmarks to be matched between different test runs. In natural forests, tree trunks are not distinct, foliage intertwines and there is a complete lack of planar structure.
In this paper we propose a method for place recognition which uses a more involved feature extraction process which is better suited to this environment. First, a feature extraction module segments stable and reliable object-sized segments from a point cloud despite the presence of heavy clutter or tree foliage. Second, repeatable oriented keyframes are extracted and matched with a reliable shape descriptor using a Random Forest to estimate the current sensor’s position within the target map. We present qualitative and quantitative evaluation on three datasets from different environments – the KITTI benchmark, a parkland scene and a foliage-heavy forest.
The experiments show how our approach can achieve place recognition in woodlands while also outperforming current state-of-the-art approaches in urban scenarios without specific tuning.