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On the Estimation of Image-matching Uncertainty in Visual Place Recognition

Mubariz Zaffar · Liangliang Nan · Julian F. P. Kooij

Arch 4A-E Poster #304
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Thu 20 Jun 5 p.m. PDT — 6:30 p.m. PDT


In Visual Place Recognition (VPR) the pose of a query image is estimated by comparing the image to a map of reference images with known reference poses. As is typical for image retrieval problems, a feature extractor maps the query and reference images to a feature space, where a nearest neighbor search is then performed. However, till recently little attention has been given to quantifying the confidence that a retrieved reference image is a correct match. Highly certain but incorrect retrieval can lead to catastrophic failure of VPR-based localization pipelines. This work compares for the first time the main approaches for estimating the image-matching uncertainty, including the traditional retrieval-based uncertainty estimation, more recent data-driven aleatoric uncertainty estimation, and the compute-intensive geometric verification by local feature matching. We further formulate a simple baseline method, ``SUE'', which unlike the other methods considers the freely-available poses of the reference images in the map. Our experiments reveal that a simple L2-distance between the query and reference descriptors is already a better estimate of image-matching uncertainty than current data-driven approaches. SUE outperforms the other efficient uncertainty estimation methods, and its uncertainty estimates complement the computationally expensive geometric verification approach. Future works for uncertainty estimation in VPR should consider the baselines discussed in this work.

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