Global registration of multiple point clouds using semidefinite programming

K. N. Chaudhury, Y. Khoo, A. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Consider N points in ℝd and M local coordinate systems that are related through unknown rigid transforms. For each point, we are given (possibly noisy) measurements of its local coordinates in some of the coordinate systems. Alternatively, for each coordinate system, we observe the coordinates of a subset of the points. The problem of estimating the global coordinates of the N points (up to a rigid transform) from such measurements comes up in distributed approaches to molecular conformation and sensor network localization, and also in computer vision and graphics. The least-squares formulation of this problem, although nonconvex, has a well-known closed-form solution when M = 2 (based on the singular value decomposition (SVD)). However, no closed-form solution is known for M ≥ 3. In this paper, we demonstrate how the least-squares formulation can be relaxed into a convex program, namely, a semidefinite program (SDP). By setting up connections between the uniqueness of this SDP and results from rigidity theory, we prove conditions for exact and stable recovery for the SDP relaxation. In particular, we prove that the SDP relaxation can guarantee recovery under more adversarial conditions compared to earlier proposed spectral relaxations, and we derive error bounds for the registration error incurred by the SDP relaxation. We also present results of numerical experiments on simulated data to confirm the theoretical findings. We empirically demonstrate that (a) unlike the spectral relaxation, the relaxation gap is mostly zero for the SDP (i.e., we are able to solve the original nonconvex least-squares problem) up to a certain noise threshold, and (b) the SDP performs significantly better than spectral and manifold-optimization methods, particularly at large noise levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-501
Number of pages34
JournalSIAM Journal on Optimization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Convex relaxation
  • Exact recovery
  • Global registration
  • Noise stability
  • Rigid transforms
  • Rigidity theory
  • Semidefinite program (SDP)
  • Spectral gap
  • Spectral relaxation


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