Real-time visual tracking of complex structures

Tom Drummond, Roberto Cipolla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

438 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a novel framework for three-dimensional model-based tracking. Graphical rendering technology is combined with constrained active contour tracking to create a robust wire-frame tracking system. It operates in real time at video frame rate (25 Hz) on standard hardware. It is based on an internal CAD model of the object to be tracked which is rendered using a binary space partition tree to perform hidden line removal. The visible edge features are thus identified online at each frame and correspondences are found in the video feed. A Lie group formalism is used to cast the motion computation problem into simple geometric terms so that tracking becomes a simple optimization problem solved by means of iterative reweighted least squares. A visual servoing system constructed using this framework is presented together with results showing the accuracy of the tracker. The system also incorporates real-time online calibration of internal camera parameters. The paper then describes how this tracking system has been extended to provide a general framework for tracking in complex configurations, including the use of multiple cameras, the tracking of structures with articulated components, or of multiple structures with constraints. The methodology used to achieve this exploits the simple geometric nature of the Lie group formalism which renders the constraints linear and homogeneous. The adjoint representation of the group is used to transform measurements into common coordinate frames. The constraints are then imposed by means of Lagrange multipliers. Results from a number of experiments performed using this framework are presented and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-946
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D
  • Articulated motion
  • Lie groups
  • Real-time
  • Visual tracking

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