The SLAM revolution
Everything you need to know about the ground-breaking technology.
For anyone interested in mapping the world around them, SLAM has been a complete game-changer. But what exactly is this technology, how does it work and what’s the right SLAM for you?
What is SLAM?
SLAM stands for simultaneous localisation and mapping (sometimes called synchronised localisation and mapping). It is the process of mapping an area whilst keeping track of the location of the device within that area. This is what makes mobile mapping possible. This allows map construction of large areas in much shorter spaces of time as areas can be measured using mobile robots, drones or vehicles. SLAM systems simplify data collection and can be used in outdoor or indoor environments.
Simultaneous Localization And Mapping – it’s essentially complex algorithms that map an unknown environment.
Using SLAM software, a device can simultaneously localise (locate itself in the map) and map (create a virtual map of the location) using SLAM algorithms.
Sensors may use visual data, or non-visible data sources and basic positional data, using an inertial measurement unit (IMU).
Using this sensor data, the device computes a ‘best estimate’ of where it is. As new positional information is collected every few seconds, features align, and the estimate improves.
SLAM can trace its early development back to the robotics industry in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, SLAM technology is used in many industries. It has really opened up opportunities to better map and understand environments whether they are indoor, outdoor, in-air or underground
There are many different types of SLAM algorithms and approaches to SLAM
What is visual SLAM?
Visual SLAM, also known as vSLAM, calculates the position and orientation of a device with respect to its surroundings while mapping the environment at the same time, using only visual inputs from a camera.
Feature-based visual SLAM typically tracks points of interest through successive camera frames to triangulate the 3D position of the camera, this information is then used to build a 3D map.
What is LiDAR SLAM?
A LiDAR-based SLAM system uses a laser sensor to generate a 3D map of its environment. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) measures the distance to an object (for example, a wall or chair leg) by illuminating the object using an active laser “pulse”.
LiDAR is both a fast and accurate approach and can be used in a wide range of environments and conditions.
The laser sensor point cloud generated from this method is highly accurate and is ideal for mapping in construction. These high precision distance measurements can be used for a whole host of other applications too.
How mapping has changed.
For anyone involved in the acquisition of geospatial data, SLAM is a huge game-changer. Gone are the days of multiple, static set-ups of bulky, tripod-based systems.
Go-anywhere mapping – rapidly and simply walk through an environment, building a digital map as you go.
SLAM can even be used to map unknown environments, helping us to learn more about the world around us.
What’s the right SLAM for you?
If you’re wanting to create a highly accurate 3D map of an underground mine, inside a building or from a UAV, you’d get the best results with a LiDAR SLAM. But if you’re wanting SLAM for computer vision (AR) or unmanned robots, then Visual SLAM could be selected.
Here are six areas to consider:
Not all SLAMs are created equal.
The CT (Continuous Time) SLAM technology used inside GeoSLAM’s product portfolio was developed by some of the smartest people on the planet. We’ve taken our technology into notoriously difficult scanning environments, such as repetitive corridors, smooth-sided tunnels and spaces with moving people, where it’s been refined, honed and pushed to breaking point. The result is a constantly improving SLAM algorithm, one that is so robust that it now works equally well in outdoor open environments as it does indoors.
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