Localizing with AprilTags

From Lofaro Lab Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Our method of indoor localization utilizes a module with a ceiling-facing camera that recognizes tags on the ceiling. The tags on the ceiling each have unique IDs corresponding to positions in the global map of the area that the module is localizing in. These position in the global map of the area for a viewed tag is utilized with the local frame 6D pose of the tag determined when the tag is viewed in order to determine the global frame position of POLARIS. In determining the global frame position of POLARIS, we determine the global frame position of whatever is holding POLARIS (a generic robot, for example). Thus, we provide a method of indoor localization through computer vision of tags.

In order to make our localization method possible, we needed to determine a practical marker recognition system to use. We have chosen to use AprilTags as our glyph recognition system due to its robustness in accurate recognition of its tags. The AprilTags system provides quick scale-invariant and rotation-invariant recognition of its tags and will therefore prove very useful to our indoor localization project as our chosen glyph recognition system. AprilTags was developed at the University of Michigan by Professor Edwin Olson. Check out the AprilTags wiki here.

Chosen AprilTags Family

AprilTags has several tag families. We originally did testing with the 36h11 tag family. But later also considered using the 16h5 tag family instead. In the end, we decided on using the 36h11 tag family. The naming convention for tag families, for example "36h11", have the number of data bits in a member tag of the family, in this case 36, followed by the minimum hamming distance between two tags of the same family, in this case 11.


Four member tags from each of the two AprilTags families pictured.

Hamming Distance

It is desired to have a high hamming distance between members of the chosen tag family because hamming distance, by definition, is the number of positions at which two symbols are different. Therefore, a high hamming distance leads to less of a chance of recognizing one tag as a different tag. This is one reason why the 36h11 tag family is more desirable to use than the 16h5 tag family.

Family Size

Another reason we chose the 36h11 tag family instead of the 16h5 tag family is because the 16h5 tag family only has 30 tag members, while the 36h11 tag family has 586 tag members. We must cover the ceilings of two floors of the engineering building, therefore we need a lot of glyphs. Our strategy to use pairs of tags from a given family, means we can have N^2 amount of spots marked by tags for a tag family with N members. This means that even with our tag pair strategy, the 16h5 tag family can only cover 900 spots. The 36h11 tag family, has the potential to cover 343396 spots. This was the deciding factor for why we chose the 36h11 tag family, not only will it provide more accurate tag recognition, but it will also provide us with the ability to localize more area than we will even need to localize.


One con in choosing the 36h11 tag family over the 16h5 tag family is that the 36h11 tag family has more data bits and is therefore more complex. Because we are manually making the tags with stencils and spray-paint, the stencils will therefore have to be carved out to a higher complexity for each tag that we use from the 36h11 tag family relative to the 16h5 tag family. However, the pros of using the 36h11 tag family still outweigh the cons.

Placement of Tags

When placing AprilTags on the ceiling for POLARIS to localize with, it is important to note the following:

  • The tag's x and y values in meters are taken from the global frame origin to the tag's center.
  • The tag must be aligned with the global frame such that the top edge of the tag is perpendicular to the y-axis of the global frame and the top edge of the tag has a more positive y-value than the bottom edge of the tag. This is the convention for POLARIS to determine its orientation properly.


In the above picture you can see how a tag should look after placement following the conventions in this section. The image shows the view of a tag when looking up at the ceiling from the floor.

How the Module Performs Localization

The following steps are repeated in cycles as long as the program is run:

Step 1: Find tags

The module recognizes every tag in its field of view (FOV) that the camera views with AprilTags. It is imperative to the process that at least one tag is in the FOV of POLARIS at all times or localization data cannot be obtained.

Step 2: Store Data

The module stores the roll, pitch, and yaw (RPY) of all newly recognized tags in data arrays that hold the data of the 8 most recently recognized tags.

Step 3: Run Moving Average Filter on RPY

The module runs a moving average filter with a window size of 10 on the RPY data of the 8 most recently recognized tags. This alleviates the effects of noise that cause jumps in the RPY data of tags collected using AprilTags. The problem of noisy data has only been observed as an issue for the RPY data of the tags, which is why the moving average filter is only applied to RPY data. The issue observed was sharp jumps between two different roll and pitch values for a given tag, even when the tags were completely stable and immobile. The moving average filter alleviates the problem by lowering the magnitude of discrepancy between the two differing angle values. Later in the process, if multiple tags have been recognized, their localization data values are averaged out to further alleviate this noise issue.

Step 4: Obtain Global Tag Pose Data

The module reads the pre-collected Look-Up Table (LUT) to obtain the global x,y,THETA,z values of the tags recognized in this particular cycle of the localization.

Step 5: Run Transformations

The module runs transforms using the global and local tag positions to determine the global position of the camera of POLARIS and thus the global position of the device. For every tag viewed in this cycle, we obtain a localization data point consisting of the x,y, and orientation of POLARIS. First the local x,y,z values of the viewed tag obtained through the AprilTags module are transformed using the RPY values for that specific tag in order to find the tag's position in reference to a local plane that is parallel to the global frame plane. This can be seen in the image accompanying step 5. The first three transformations, which are RPY angle transformations, are changing the angle of the local frame that the tag is viewed in so that the frame is parallel to the global frame. Next the camera local position is obtained with respect to this viewed tag's center as the origin by simply negating the x,y,z values of the tag's local frame position since that position was originally taken with respect to the camera center as the local frame origin. Finally, the camera's local frame position is shifted by the tag's global frame position values that were obtained from the pre-collected LUT such that we are able to obtain the global frame position of the camera. Because the camera is attached to POLARIS, we have found the global frame position of POLARIS and any device/user carrying POLARIS.


Step 6: Weighted Average of Localization Data

The localization data from every viewed tag is averaged out using a weighted average that allows a smaller weight for tags that are further away. This allows for one localization data point of x, y, z, and YAW to be obtained for POLARIS even if multiple tags are viewed. As mentioned before in step 3, the viewing of multiple tags decreases the effect on the final localization value of the infrequent occurrence of noisy angle data in the local frame 6D pose of viewed tags.

Step 7: Moving Average of Global Position

The global position of POLARIS is run through a moving average filter with a window size of 5 to obtain the final localization data of POLARIS that is output by the localization module. The reason for this filter is to keep the localization data continuous, as it should be.

POLARIS Level II Diagram