From Computer Science Wiki

In the context of robotics and especially in algorithms like Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) or Visual SLAM (vSLAM), "Initialization" refers to the process of setting up the initial conditions or starting point for the algorithm.

At the start of SLAM or vSLAM, the robot doesn't know anything about its environment or its position within that environment. However, to begin the process of mapping and localization, it needs some kind of initial guess or estimate. This is what the initialization step provides.

Here's an example to illustrate what happens during initialization in a vSLAM system:

  1. Starting Position: The robot might assume that its initial position and orientation are at the origin (0,0,0) with no rotation. Alternatively, if there's some prior knowledge available (like if the robot has been placed at a known location in a pre-mapped environment), this can be used as the starting position.
  2. Initial Feature Detection: The robot captures the first image (or first few images) with its camera and processes these images to detect features. These features serve as the first landmarks in the robot's map.
  3. Initial Motion Estimation: If the robot is stationary at the start, it might assume its initial motion is zero. Otherwise, if it's moving, it might use the first few frames to estimate its initial motion.

After the initialization, the robot can start the main loop of the vSLAM process, where it continues to detect features, match them across frames, estimate motion, and update the map.

In the context of a rescue robot, initialization might involve starting the robot at a known location at the edge of the search area, capturing the first image of the environment, and detecting the first set of features to serve as landmarks. This gives the robot a starting point from which to begin its search and rescue mission.