Autonomous Exploration of Unknown Indoor Environments for High-Quality Mapping Using Feature-Based RGB-D SLAM

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Jul 7;22(14):5117. doi: 10.3390/s22145117.


Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) system-based indoor mapping using autonomous mobile robots in unknown environments is crucial for many applications, such as rescue scenarios, utility tunnel monitoring, and indoor 3D modeling. Researchers have proposed various strategies to obtain full coverage while minimizing exploration time; however, mapping quality factors have not been considered. In fact, mapping quality plays a pivotal role in 3D modeling, especially when using low-cost sensors in challenging indoor scenarios. This study proposes a novel exploration algorithm to simultaneously optimize exploration time and mapping quality using a low-cost RGB-D camera. Feature-based RGB-D SLAM is utilized due to its various advantages, such as low computational cost and dense real-time reconstruction ability. Subsequently, our novel exploration strategies consider the mapping quality factors of the RGB-D SLAM system. Exploration time optimization factors are also considered to set a new optimum goal. Furthermore, a Voronoi path planner is adopted for reliable, maximal obstacle clearance and fixed paths. According to the texture level, three exploration strategies are evaluated in three real-world environments. We achieve a significant enhancement in mapping quality and exploration time using our proposed exploration strategies compared to the baseline frontier-based exploration, particularly in a low-texture environment.

Keywords: 3D mapping quality; RGB-D SLAM; Voronoi planner; autonomous exploration; mobile robots.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Robotics*

Grants and funding

The research was substantially funded by the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong under the scheme Research Impact Fund on the project R5009-21 and the Smart City Research Institute, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.