Google Research

Yes, we CANN: Constrained Approximate Nearest Neighbors for local feature-based visual localization

International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV'23), IEEE / CVF (2023) (to appear)


Large-scale visual localization systems continue to rely on 3D point clouds built from image collections using structure-from-motion. While the 3D points in these models are represented using local image features, directly matching a query image's local features against the point cloud is challenging due to the scale of the nearest-neighbor search problem. Many recent approaches to visual localization have thus proposed a hybrid method, where first a global (per image) embedding is used to retrieve a small subset of database images, and local features of the query are matched only against those. It seems to have become common belief that global embeddings are critical for said image-retrieval in visual localization, despite the significant downside of having to compute two feature types for each query image. In this paper, we take a step back from this assumption and propose Constrained Approximate Nearest Neighbors (CANN), a joint solution of k-nearest-neighbors across both the geometry and appearance space using only local features. We first derive the theoretical foundation for k-nearest-neighbor retrieval across multiple metrics and then showcase how CANN improves visual localization. Our experiments on public localization benchmarks demonstrate that our method significantly outperforms both state-of-the-art global feature-based retrieval and approaches using local feature aggregation schemes. Moreover, it is an order of magnitude faster in both index and query time than feature aggregation schemes for these datasets. Code will be released.

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