Machine Vision and Applications

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 130–137

Uncalibrated obstacle detection using normal flow


DOI: 10.1007/BF01216818

Cite this article as:
Santos-Victor, J. & Sandini, G. Machine Vis. Apps. (1996) 9: 130. doi:10.1007/BF01216818


This paper addresses the problem of obstacle detection for mobile robots. The visual information provided by a single on-board camera is used as input. We assume that the robot is moving on a planar pavement, and any point lying outside this plane is treated as an obstacle. We address the problem of obstacle detection by exploiting the geometric arrangement between the robot, the camera, and the scene. During an initialization stage, we estimate an inverse perspective transformation that maps the image plane onto the horizontal plane. During normal operation, the normal flow is computed and inversely projected onto the horizontal plane. This simplifies the resultant flow pattern, and fast tests can be used to detect obstacles. A salient feature of our method is that only the normal flow information, or first order time-and-space image derivatives, is used, and thus we cope with the aperture problem. Another important issue is that, contrasting with other methods, the vehicle motion and intrinsic and extrinsic parameters of the camera need not be known or calibrated. Both translational and rotational motion can be dealt with. We present motion estimation results on synthetic and real-image data. A real-time version implemented on a mobile robot, is described.

Key words

Mobile robotsRobot visionObstacle detectionNormal flowAffine motion

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Superior TécnicoInstitute of Systems and RoboticsLisboa CodexPortugal
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Informatica, Sistemistica e Telematica, Lira-LabUniversity of GenovaGenovaItaly