PCL Developers blog

Stephen D. Fox

project:PCL-URCS: Out-of-core Octree Integration
mentor:Radu B. Rusu & Jacob Schloss (Urban Robotics)

About me

I am from the Fordham University Robotics and Computer Vision Lab, where I’ve worked on various projects related to stereo cameras, mobile robotics, and cluster computing. I run 64-bit debian (sid) on my development platform.

My research interests include:

  • Stereo vision
  • 3D perception
  • Image processing
  • Embedded systems


  • Road cycling
  • Running
  • Traveling

Recent status updates

Back on track
Wednesday, June 06, 2012

After a busy couple of weeks, I am back to work on the out of core library. Justin, Julius, Jacob, Radu, and I have been discussing some pending changes to get outofcore performing at the appropriate level. Julius has provided some excellent feedback, and I think we will have some good demos soon.

Summarizing the OOC interface as it currently stands, remaining tasks on the OOC side fall into the following categories:

  1. OOC Interface (octree_base/octree_base_node) Responsible for recrusively traversing the top level in-memory octree
    1. point/region insertion methods
      • addDataToLeaf
      • addPointCloud
      • addDataToLeaf_and_genLOD
      • addPointCloud_and_genLOD
      • TODO: Need some tools for building point clouds from directory of PCDs
      • TODO: Input support for PointCloud2
      • TODO: Improve the speed of tree-building (slow with zlib compression)
    2. frustrum/box/region requests
      • queryBBIntersects
      • queryBBIncludes
      • queryBBIncludesSubsample
      • TODO: add PointCloud2 query support (almost done)
    3. Parameterization
      • container type
      • downsampling
      • compression (lossy, lossless)
      • depth/BB resolution
      • TODO: work out the interface for controlling these parameters; cross compatibility, etc...
  2. Encoding and Decoding of compressed data (Lossy/Lossless)
    • I have already added zlib compression into PCD containers
    • TODO: look into lossy compression based on the PCL Octree compression
    • TODO: Delay write for faster construction
  3. File I/O
    • Added some additional debug output to the PCDReader methods

Roadmap for the next few days:

  • Finish adding support for PointCloud2 Queries
  • Add support for PointCloud2 as input

Roadmap for the next couple of weeks:

  • Finish improvements to OOC construction (support of containers/point types, PointCloud2, caching, etc...)
  • Work with Julius on adding lossy-compression features
  • Clean up templating of interface class
  • Clean up construction of octree for speed
  • Abstract the hierarchy for easier modification of parameters
  • Make tools for OOC tree construction more flexible
Out of core node data to PCD
Monday, April 16, 2012

For the past week, I have finished the change from dump binary C-struct to PCD file at each node. This should help with debugging, and will make manipulating the data, at each node and pre-rendering, easier. I need to clean up the code a bit more before I commit to the repository.

In addition to cleaning up before committing, a few things that remain outstanding in this change are:

  • block reading of point cloud files
  • efficient appending to PCD files
  • a more detailed consideration of how to take advantage of compression methods
  • tending to the insertion and query methods of the octree_ram container class for use with PCD files
Changes in the outofcore code
Monday, April 09, 2012

I was able to fix the issue reported by Justin in his March 22nd posting about construction of large out-of-core trees. There was an issue in construction of octrees from inputs that were too large (the TRCS point sets were too large). However, if the clouds are broken up into pieces, or come initially from a set of smaller point clouds, there doesn’t seem to be any issue. For now, I refactored some of the reading/writing constants used, and that seems to have fixed it.

Justin and I have been discussing modifying the PCD reader to iterate through PCD files out-of-core to avoid loading the cloud entirely into memory. This goes for both reading and writing PCD files. I think this is a good idea, especially since this software may be running on a busy server at Urban Robotics, in addition to encoding/decoding the octree data. I’m almost done with the change from C-struct dumped binary data files (ending in ”.oct_dat”) at each node to a PCD file. This will provide a lot of convenience for debugging, as well as a simple way to save in binary compressed (lmz) format, and give us access to PCL algorithms at the leaves.

Radu, Julius and I have been chatting about compression within the out-of-core point cloud. As Radu pointed out to me, the chief issue here that we need to be wary of is I/O speed, particularly in reading and decoding the compressed data from disk, since this is supposed to speed up rendering/visualization of enormous data sets. Speed of writing to disk isn’t currently a primary concern for optimization, though it has its place. Construction of the out-of-core tree is usually an off-line pre-processing step. Julius is going to help us determine how we could use the compression from the existing octree for fast decoding at variable densities.

As a final note, I’ve added the abstract parent class for the disk and ram container classes. This is another step toward refactoring the code base and standardizing the interface throughout.

Outofcore Octree Update
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Recently I’ve been investigating the issues with the outofcore octree reported by Justin. I have not been able to track down the reason that we cannot yet handle insertion of very large pcd files.

I have also been re-implementing the outofcore containers (ram and disk) to inherit a common abstract interface class. While I am working on this, I am cleaning up the binary serialization code, and plan to transition the binary point data at each node to PCL’s binary format. This will also allow us easy access to the lmzCompression of the point data.

As we go along, I have been adding unit tests to monitor bugs/features. These still are not being run by the build server, but I hope to see the outofcore code base sufficiently stable to enable by default soon.

Chats about Outofcore Octrees
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Justin, Radu, Julius, Jacob and I have been discussing outofcore octrees. Some particularly interesting points of note arose in the conversation regarding the method of serialization. The UR constructs the octree in a depth-first manner, storing the point data in the leafs of the tree. If the LODs are generated, the folders (which contain internal node data) can be read (and rendered) in a breadth first manner, providing a successively more detailed octree as deeper nodes are read (see Justin’s blog).

Julius encodes his outofcore octree using a method similar to the Nested Octrees in the Scheiblauer and Wimmer paper [2]. Each file serialized is itself a sub-octree.

Currently, I am investigating appraoches to serialization for octrees. I’m studying two papers in particular that I’ve found useful:

[2]Claus Scheiblauer and Michael Wimmer, “Out-of-Core Selection and Editing of Huge Point Clouds.” Computers and Graphics, April 2011.