Robotics: Science and Systems VIII

The Banana Distribution is Gaussian: A Localization Study with Exponential Coordinates

Andrew Long, Kevin Wolfe, Michael Mashner, Gregory Chirikjian


Distributions in position and orientation are central to many problems in robot localization. To increase efficiency, a majority of algorithms for planar mobile robots use Gaussians defined on positional Cartesian coordinates and heading. However, the distribution of poses for a noisy two-wheeled robot moving in the plane has been observed by many to be a ``banana-shaped'' distribution, which is clearly not Gaussian/normal in these coordinates. As uncertainty increases, many localization algorithms therefore become ``inconsistent'' due to the normality assumption breaking down. We observe that this is because the combination of Cartesian coordinates and heading is not the most appropriate set of coordinates to use, and that the banana distribution can be described in closed form as a Gaussian in an alternative set of coordinates via the so-called exponential map. With this formulation, we can derive closed-form expressions for propagating the mean and covariance of the Gaussian in these exponential coordinates for a differential-drive car moving along a trajectory constructed from sections of straight segments and arcs of constant curvature. In addition, we detail how to fuse two or more Gaussians in exponential coordinates together with given relative pose measurements between robots moving in formation. These propagation and fusion formulas utilized here reduce uncertainty in localization better than when using traditional methods. We demonstrate with numerical examples dramatic improvements in the estimated pose of three robots moving in formation when compared to classical Cartesian-coordinate-based Gaussian fusion methods.



    AUTHOR    = {Andrew Long AND Kevin Wolfe AND Michael Mashner AND Gregory Chirikjian}, 
    TITLE     = {The Banana Distribution is Gaussian: A Localization Study with Exponential Coordinates}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2012}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Sydney, Australia}, 
    MONTH     = {July},
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2012.VIII.034}