Tangent Images for Mitigating Spherical Distortion

CVPR 2020

Authors: Marc Eder, Mykhailo Shvets, John Lim, Jan-Michael Frahm Description: In this work, we propose "tangent images," a spherical image representation that facilitates transferable and scalable 360 degree computer vision. Inspired by techniques in cartography and computer graphics, we render a spherical image to a set of distortion-mitigated, locally-planar image grids tangent to a subdivided icosahedron. By varying the resolution of these grids independently of the subdivision level, we can effectively represent high resolution spherical images while still benefiting from the low-distortion icosahedral spherical approximation. We show that training standard convolutional neural networks on tangent images compares favorably to the many specialized spherical convolutional kernels that have been developed, while also scaling efficiently to handle significantly higher spherical resolutions. Furthermore, because our approach does not require specialized kernels, we show that we can transfer networks trained on perspective images to spherical data without fine-tuning and with limited performance drop-off. Finally, we demonstrate that tangent images can be used to improve the quality of sparse feature detection on spherical images, illustrating its usefulness for traditional computer vision tasks like structure-from-motion and SLAM.