The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | April 4 2008

Robotics Institute Seminar, April 4, 2008
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Appearance Based Navigation and the FAB-MAP Algorithm



Paul Newman

Mobile Robotics Research Group
Department of Engineering Science
University of Oxford


Time and Place


Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305 )

Time: 3:30 to 4:30 pm




This talk considers an appearance-based topological approach to mobile robotic navigation and mapping. We shall introduce a new algorithm - Fast Appearance Based Mapping (FAB-MAP) - which is capable of building large scale (>>km) topological maps and detecting loop closure with a cost linear in the size of the map. Loop closing is the problem of correctly asserting that a robot has returned to a previously visited area. It is a particularly hard but important component of the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) problem.
Here a mobile robot explores an a-priori unknown environment performing on-the-fly mapping while the map is used to localize the vehicle. Many SLAM implementations look to internal map and vehicle estimates to make decisions about whether a vehicle is revisiting a previously mapped area or is exploring a new region of workspace. We suggest that one of the reasons loop closing is hard in SLAM is precisely because these internal estimates can, despite best efforts, be in gross error. FAB-MAP makes no recourse to the metric estimates of the SLAM system it supports and aids --- it is entirely independent. We illustrate the effectiveness of the algorithm on several outdoor and indoor data sets producing both purely topological maps and by integrating topological constraints within large scale metric SLAM maps built with 3D laser data.


Speaker Biography


Paul Newman obtained an M.Eng. in Engineering Science from Oxford University in 1995. He then undertook a Ph.D. in autonomous navigation at the Australian Center for Field Robotics, University of Sydney, Australia. In 1999 he returned to the United Kingdom to work in the commercial sub-sea navigation industry. In late 2000 he joined the Dept of Ocean Engineering at M.I.T. where as a post-doc and later a research scientist, he worked on algorithms and software for robust autonomous navigation for both land and sub-sea agents. In early 2003 he returned to Oxford as a Departmental Lecturer in Engineering Science before being appointed to a University Lectureship in Information Engineering and becoming a Fellow of New College in 2005.
He heads the Oxford Mobile robotics Research group and has research interests in pretty much anything to do with autonomous navigation but particularly Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping. He is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Robotics Research and The Journal of Field Robotics and a IEEE R.A.S European Distinguished Lecturer for 2008 and 2009.


Speaker Appointments


For appointments, please contact Alonzo Kelly(

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.