Leveraging BEV Representation for 360-degree Visual Place Recognition

Xuecheng Xu, Yanmei Jiao, Sha Lu, Xiaqing Ding, Rong Xiong, Yue Wang

This paper investigates the advantages of using Bird's Eye View (BEV) representation in 360-degree visual place recognition (VPR). We propose a novel network architecture that utilizes the BEV representation in feature extraction, feature aggregation, and vision-LiDAR fusion, which bridges visual cues and spatial awareness. Our method extracts image features using standard convolutional networks and combines the features according to pre-defined 3D grid spatial points. To alleviate the mechanical and time misalignments between cameras, we further introduce deformable attention to learn the compensation. Upon the BEV feature representation, we then employ the polar transform and the Discrete Fourier transform for aggregation, which is shown to be rotation-invariant. In addition, the image and point cloud cues can be easily stated in the same coordinates, which benefits sensor fusion for place recognition. The proposed BEV-based method is evaluated in ablation and comparative studies on two datasets, including on-the-road and off-the-road scenarios. The experimental results verify the hypothesis that BEV can benefit VPR by its superior performance compared to baseline methods. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first trial of employing BEV representation in this task.

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