A Quaternion-Based Certifiably Optimal Solution to the Wahba Problem With Outliers

Heng Yang, Luca Carlone; The IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2019, pp. 1665-1674


The Wahba problem, also known as rotation search, seeks to find the best rotation to align two sets of vector observations given putative correspondences, and is a fundamental routine in many computer vision and robotics applications. This work proposes the first polynomial-time certifiably optimal approach for solving the Wahba problem when a large number of vector observations are outliers. Our first contribution is to formulate the Wahba problem using a Truncated Least Squares (TLS) cost that is insensitive to a large fraction of spurious correspondences. The second contribution is to rewrite the problem using unit quaternions and show that the TLS cost can be framed as a Quadratically-Constrained Quadratic Program (QCQP). Since the resulting optimization is still highly non-convex and hard to solve globally, our third contribution is to develop a convex Semidefinite Programming (SDP) relaxation. We show that while a naive relaxation performs poorly in general, our relaxation is tight even in the presence of large noise and outliers. We validate the proposed algorithm, named QUASAR (QUAternion-based Semidefinite relAxation for Robust alignment), in both synthetic and real datasets showing that the algorithm outperforms RANSAC, robust local optimization techniques, global outlier-removal procedures, and Branch-and-Bound methods. QUASAR is able to compute certifiably optimal solutions (i.e. the relaxation is exact) even in the case when 95% of the correspondences are outliers.

Related Material

[pdf] [supp]
author = {Yang, Heng and Carlone, Luca},
title = {A Quaternion-Based Certifiably Optimal Solution to the Wahba Problem With Outliers},
booktitle = {The IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)},
month = {October},
year = {2019}