ME/CS 132a, Winter 2012

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Advanced Robotics: Navigation and Vision


  • Larry Matthies (coordinator),
  • Roland Brockers, Adnan Ansar, Yang Cheng, Nick Hudson, Tom Howard, Yoshi Kuwata, Jeremy Ma
  • Lectures: Tue/Thu, 2:30-4 pm, 306 FIR
  • Office hours: After class/by appointment

Teaching Assistants (

  • Scott Livingston (
  • Stephanie Tsuei (
  • Office hours: Mon, 4-6pm, SFL 2-2

Course Mailing List: (sign up)


Course Information


There are no formal prerequisites for the course. ME 115 ab (Introduction to Kinematics and Robotics) is recommended but not necessary. Students are expected to have basic understanding of linear algebra, probability and statistics. We will review some of the required background materials during the first week of lectures. Besides these, students should have some prior programming experience and know at least one of the following languages: C, Python, or MATLAB. Depending on the background of the class, we will hold tutorials for some of the programming languages to help students get started.


There are no midterm/final exams for this course. The grade will be based on weekly homework (60%) and two week-long labs (20% each). Late homework will not be accepted without a letter from the health center or the Dean. However, you are granted a grace period of five late days throughout the entire term for weekly homework. Please email the TAs and indicate the number of late days you have used on the homework. No grace period is allowed for week-long labs.

  • Homework: Homework is usually due in one week after it is assigned. You can choose to turn in a hard copy in class or send an electronic copy to Stephanie Tsuei (stsuei at If you are unable attend the lecture, contact the TAs to find an alternative way to turn in your homework.
  • Labs: Students will form groups of 2-3 people and perform lab experiments together. Detail of this will be announced later in the course.

Collaboration Policy

Students are encouraged to discuss and collaborate with others on the homework. However, you should write your own solution to show your own understanding of the material. You should not copy other people's solution or code as part of your solution. You are allowed to consult the instructors, the TAs, and/or other students. Outside reference materials can be used except for solutions from prior years or similar courses taught at other universities. Outside materials must be cited if used.

Course Texts

There are two required textbooks:

  • David A. Forsyth and Jean Ponce, Computer Vision: A Modern Approach (2nd Edition), Prentice Hall, 2011.
  • Sebastian Thrun, Wolfram Burgard, and Dieter Fox, Probabilistic robotics, MIT Press, 2005.

Additionally, there is an optional textbook that is available as a free download

Supplementary Reading

  • P. Hebert, N. Hudson, J. Ma, J.W. Burdick (2011). Fusion of Stereo Vision, Force-Torque, and Joint Sensors for Estimation of In-Hand Object Location. Proc. of the IEEE Int'l Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pp. 5935-5941. [pdf]
  • P. Hebert, N. Hudson, J. Ma, T. Howard, T. Fuchs, M. Bajracharya, J.W. Burdick (2012). Combined Shape, Appearance and Silhouette for Simultaneous Manipulator and Object Tracking. Proc. of the IEEE Int'l Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), to appear. [pdf]

Lecture Notes

Week Date Topic Reading Instructor
1 5 Jan (Th) Course Overview, Illumination, Radiometry,
 and a (Very Brief) Introduction to the
 Physics of Remote Sensing Forsyth 2.1, 3.1, 3.2 Larry Matthies
2 10 Jan (Tu) Cameras and Calibration Forsyth Ch. 1 Larry Matthies
12 Jan (Th) Radiometry, Reflectance, and Color Forsyth 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 Larry Matthies
3 17 Jan (Tu) Low Level Image Processing Forsyth 4.1, 4.2, 4.5 Roland Brockers
19 Jan (Th) Feature Detection and Matching Forsyth ch 5 Roland Brockers
4 24 Jan (Tu) Stereo Vision Forsyth ch 7 Roland Brockers
26 Jan (Th) Tracking and Outlier Detection Forsyth 10.4, 11 Yang Cheng
5 31 Jan (Tu) Structure from motion and visual odometry Forsyth ch 8 Adnan Ansar
2 Feb (Th) Overview of Range Sensors, Introduction to Lab 1 Forsyth ch 14 Jeremy Ma
6 7 Feb (Tu) No Class (Lab 1)
9 Feb (Th) No Class (Lab 1)
7 14 Feb (Tu) Introduction to Estimation Thrun 1, 2 Nick Hudson
16 Feb (Th) Linear Kalman Filter, Proof of Kalman Filter Thrun 3.2 Nick Hudson
8 21 Feb (Tu) Extended Kalman Filter, Unscented Kalman Filter Thrun 3.3 Nick Hudson
23 Feb (Th) Particle Filter Thrun 3.4 Nick Hudson
9 28 Feb (Tu) Mapping Thrun 9 Jeremy Ma
1 Mar (Th) Mapping, Introduction to Lab 2 Jeremy Ma
10 6 Mar (Tu) No class (Lab 2)
8 Mar (Th) No class (Lab 2)


Please pay attention to the implementation guidelines when writing code for homework.


Solutions are only accessible from the Caltech network. You can use VPN if you want to access the solutions from off-campus.