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Tutorial 6: Point Cloud Library and ring detection

Development of Inteligent Systems, 2024

This exercise will show a few examples of how to use the Point Cloud Library (PCL) and OpenCV to extract information from the RGBD camera. The PCL project contains a large number of tutorials demonstrating how to use the library. From the code in this tutorial you can extrapolate how to use the PCL library in ROS2. For our purposes, the tutorials on PointCloud segmentation are the most relevant. The given examples use the RANSAC algorithm to find planes and cylinders, and extract the inliers.

Plane segmentation

For many different tasks, segmenting the ground plane, or finding other dominant planes in a point cloud is important. This is implemented in the planes.cpp node. After building the package, you can run it with:

ros2 run dis_tutorial6 planes

Cylinder segmentation

Please note that the given node fits a cylinder to every pointcloud it recieves. It should be used to find the accurate position of a cylinder, but it is not reliable as a cylinder detector. It can be used, but you need to filter out the false detections.

First we transform the ROS2 message to a PCL pointcloud, and then to a type appropriate for processing:

// convert ROS msg to PointCloud2
pcl_conversions::toPCL(*msg, *pcl_pc);

// convert PointCloud2 to templated PointCloud
pcl::fromPCLPointCloud2(*pcl_pc, *cloud);

Keep only the points that have the x-dimension (view in front of the camera) between 0 and 10.

// Build a passthrough filter to remove spurious NaNs
pass.setFilterLimits(0, 10);

Then, we calculate normals to the points. For each point we take a look at its neighbours and estimate the normal to the surface. This is one of many possible approaches to do this. In this way, we can also create a 3d mesh from 3d points:

// Estimate point normals

We find the largest plane in the point cloud. This will usually be the ground plane. It will be simpler for RANSAC to find a good fit for the cylinder if we filter out all the points we are certain do not belong to the cylinder:

// Create the segmentation object for the planar model and set all the
// parameters

seg.segment(*inliers_plane, *coefficients_plane);

Remove all the points that belong to the plane from the point cloud:

// Extract the planar inliers from the input cloud

Finally, run RANSAC and fit a cylinder model to the rest of the points:

// Create the segmentation object for cylinder segmentation and set all the
// parameters
seg.setRadiusLimits(0.06, 0.2);

// Obtain the cylinder inliers and coefficients
seg.segment(*inliers_cylinder, *coefficients_cylinder);

In the end, extract the points that belong to the cylinder and computer their centroid:

// extract cylinder
pcl::PointCloud<PointT>::Ptr cloud_cylinder(new pcl::PointCloud<PointT>());

// calculate marker
pcl::compute3DCentroid(*cloud_cylinder, centroid);

Ring detection

The given code is a demo of how to extract planar rings from the image. This is one of the simplest possible approaches, for demonstration purposes. You are highly encouraged to develop your own approach. The given code is explained below, which you should at least customize to improve its performance:

First, convert the image to numpy form:

cv_image = self.bridge.imgmsg_to_cv2(data, "bgr8")

Convert it to a grayscale image:

gray = cv2.cvtColor(cv_image, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)

Optionally, apply Gaussian blur. This is done to decrease the effects of image noise and small changes in pixel intensities:

gray = cv2.GaussianBlur(gray,(3,3),0)

Optionally, apply histogram equalization. This is done to improve the contrast of the image:

gray = cv2.equalizeHist(gray)

Apply thresholding to get a binary image. There are different possible apporoaches: global, Otsu, adaptive:

#ret, thresh = cv2.threshold(img, 50, 255, 0)
#ret, thresh = cv2.threshold(img, 70, 255, cv2.THRESH_BINARY)
thresh = cv2.adaptiveThreshold(gray, 255, cv2.ADAPTIVE_THRESH_MEAN_C, cv2.THRESH_BINARY, 15, 30)

Extract contours from the edges in the binary image:

contours, hierarchy = cv2.findContours(thresh, cv2.RETR_LIST, cv2.CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE)

Then, we fit ellipses to all contours that are longer than some threshold (20):

elps = []
for cnt in contours:
    #     print cnt
    #     print cnt.shape
    if cnt.shape[0] >= 20:
        ellipse = cv2.fitEllipse(cnt)

We then evaluate all pairs of ellipses and try to eliminate all that do not form a ring. OpenCV returns ellipses as oriented bounding boxes. Each ellipse is represented as the coordinates of its the center point e[0], the length of the minor and major axis e[1] and its rotation e[2]. The ellipses that represent the inner and outer circles of a ring have some similar properties. First, their centers should be roughly the same:

e1 = elps[n]
e2 = elps[m]
dist = np.sqrt(((e1[0][0] - e2[0][0]) ** 2 + (e1[0][1] - e2[0][1]) ** 2))

# The centers of the two elipses should be within 5 pixels of each other
if dist >= 5:

Their rotation in the image should be approximately the same:

angle_diff = np.abs(e1[2] - e2[2])
if angle_diff>4:

And we can think of other filters, like the width of the ring should be appximately the same along the major and minor axis of the ellipses, the width of the ring should be smaller than the minor axis of the inner ellipse and so on.

TODO for students:

As part of Task 2, you need to find all the cylinders, 3D rings, and parking spaces (2D) rings in the image. The code in this exercise will NOT perform this tasks out of the box. You should either develop a completely new approach, or use this code as a starting point.

For cylinder detection

In addition to the point cloud data, you also have the RGB image, the depth image, and the laser scan which you can use to detect the cylinders. The cylinders have color which is very different from the background. The cylinders have a specific size. When looking at the laser scan, the cylinders look like (incomplete) perfect circles. You should use some or all of these properties to robustly detect the cylinders. Furthermore, the cylinder_segmentation.cpp node can be optimized significantly to reject false detections (filter out more points, the number of inliers should be above some treshold, the fitted cylinder should be of a certain size, and should be oriented in a certain way).

For ring detection

There are two types of rings that should be detected, 3D and 2D. There are, again, many different approaches that you can take. You can choose to further robustify the given approach, by improving the image preprocessing and improving the rejection of false detections. You can also exploit the color information in the image (maybe color segmentation can work?). For the 3D rings, there should be a hole in the inside ellipse, which can be verified from the point cloud or the depth image. The 3D rings are also higher, always above the central point in the image. The 2D rings are on the ground, always below the central point of the image. Have fun!