Sensor Planning for Range Cameras via a Coverage Strength Model
Jose Luis Alarcon Herrera, Aaron Mavrinac, and Xiang Chen
Abstract— A method for sensor planning based on a pre-
viously developed coverage strength model is presented. The
approach taken is known as generate-and-test: a feasible
solution is predeﬁned and then tested using the coverage model.
The relationship between the resolution of the imaging system
and its performance is the key component to perform sensor
planning of range cameras. Experimental results are presented;
the inverse correlation between coverage performance and
measurement error demonstrates the usefulness of the model
in the sensor planning context.
I. INT ROD UCTION
Sensor planning toward optimal camera placement is an
important aspect of system integration in machine vision.
The goal of sensor planning is to improve the performance
of the vision system, the performance herein is deﬁned as
the ability of the system to repeatedly complete a task under
controlled conditions. Several methods have been proposed
to solve this problem. Typically a set of feasible camera con-
ﬁgurations is deﬁned as well as some metric for performance;
optimal camera placement is generally achieved by maxi-
mizing coverage. This is particulary useful for large multi-
camera conﬁgurations. However, some machine vision tasks
such as industrial inspections require monocular systems and
rely more on an approach that takes in to account the task’s
parameters in detail. As discussed in Mavrinac et al.  a
global view of the system where coverage is deﬁned as a
bivalent condition of visibility is not sufﬁcient; points in the
ﬁeld of view can be fully covered, partially covered or not
covered at all, therefore, to express the vagueness of coverage
the model assigns coverage strength a value in the range
[0,1]. Our task of three-dimensional measurement based on
laser scanners is used primarily in industrial inspections
where the parameters involved in the scene are strictly
controlled, (e.g. no external occlusion is allowed, etc.). Our
previously developed coverage model ,  is well suited to
a generate-and-test approach. Our coverage metric has been
shown to closely reﬂect the task’s a posteriori performance
, , . Currently there exists no feasible technique
for numerical optimization using this model; in this paper
we employ the generate-and-test approach to perform sensor
planning. The main purpose of the current brief is to test
the usefulness of the coverage strength model in the sensor
planning context. The experimental results are expected to
This research was supported in part by the National Council of Science
and Technology of Mexico (CONACyT) and by the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The authors would like
to acknowledge the support provided by Vista Solutions Inc.
J. L. Alarcon Herrera, A. Mavrinac and X. Chen are with the
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of
Windsor, 401 Sunset Ave., Windsor, Ontario, Canada, N9B 3P4.
provide preliminary effort toward optimal sensor placement;
this is mentioned later in Section VI.
In sensor planning and optimal camera placement, static
occlusion and dynamic occlusion present an issue for the
maximization of coverage; objects in the scene occlude
points of interest, thus preventing the cameras from imaging
the entire scene. Dynamic occlusion has been handled using
a probabilistic model by Mittal and Davis  and Chen and
Davis . In the context of laser-based systems, the work
of Pito  also deals with occlusion, approaching the next-
best-view problem by focusing on minimizing occlusion.
As shown in the work of Scott et al.  maximizing
coverage also involves achieving certain degree of overlap
for the case of n-ocular tasks such as surface modeling and
reconstruction. In more recent work Scott  models the
laser scanner system in detail. Prieto et al.  give special
attention to the effects of the angle between the laser plane
and the optical axis of the camera. However, the authors do
not include the effects of focal length and aperture diameter
in the estimation of good camera placement.
Sensor planning requires a priori information of the system
such as camera parameters that allow the computation of
some performance metric. A performance metric is then used
to assign some meaningful value to a particular camera con-
ﬁguration before it can be selected as a good conﬁguration.
Ram et al.  developed a performance metric considering
such factors as direction of view and zoom. However, the
authors neglect distortion caused by perspective projection.
Erdem and Sclaroff  propose the use of a more realistic
model for coverage. The work of Gonz´
alez-Banos et al.
 is more concerned with the accurate representation of
performance. In a laser based task, the authors parameterize
visibility using conditions such as direction of view and
range within the working distance of the camera. Other
examples are found in the work of Angella et al.  and
orster et al .
The sensor planning literature shows different ways in
which coverage is modeled and parameterized; however,
most existing models are bivalent and do not always en-
capsulate all the parameters related to the overall description
of coverage. Some models are concerned only with direction
of view and zoom such as that of Ram et al. , Reed and
Allen  provide an excellent example, working to solve
the next-best-view problem, they consider not only visibility
but resolution and direction as well. Their work is also an
example of the generate-and-test approach.
This paper is organized as follows. in Section II, we give
an overview of the camera parameters and some concepts that
are relevant to our task. In Section III, we build the necessary
background and describe the coverage strength model: we
review the components of the model that account for the
various factors involved in the camera’s performance. Section
V describes the experimental setup and presents the results.
Finally, we present some concluding remarks and notes on
future work in Section VI.
II. CA ME RA PAR AM ETERS
The model of a camera has two types of parameters:
intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic parameters include the
focal length, the effective aperture diameter, the radial dis-
tortion coefﬁcients, the physical pixel size, the sensor size
in pixels, and the pixel coordinates of the optical center.
The extrinsic parameters express the camera position and
orientation relative to a reference frame.
Most sensor planning research has proposed methods
and algorithms for ﬁnding good camera conﬁgurations by
choosing a solution space over the extrinsic parameters of the
camera (which can be continuous or discrete) and optimizing
the conﬁguration. In this paper we aim to modify not only the
extrinsic parameters but also the intrinsic parameters through
the use of a realistic coverage strength model (see Section
III), that takes into account all of the aforementioned char-
acteristics of the camera to achieve an accurate description
A. Camera Calibration
A laser-based 3D imaging system is typically conﬁgured
as shown in Figure 1. The two main characteristics of this
conﬁguration are the camera and the laser plane. Both the
coverage strength model and the 3D measurement algorithm
rely on the camera’s parameters, thus camera calibration is
Fig. 1. Typical Camera Setup
The calibration procedure comprises two stages. The ﬁrst
corrects for lens distortion where image coordinates (u′, v′)
are calculated from the raw pixel coordinates (u, v)using
Brown’s lens distortion model .
u′=u+uo(C1r2+C2r4) + 2C3uovo+C4r2+ 2u2
v′=v+vo(C1r2+C2r4) + 2C4uovo+C3r2+ 2v2
where (ou, ov)are the pixel coordinates of the image projec-
tion of the optical center and C1to C4are the lens distortion
The second stage produces a homography between the
two-dimensional image plane and the two-dimensional laser
plane deﬁned in homogeneous coordinates as a 3×3matrix
where sis a scale factor.
Mavrinac et al.  provide the derivation and implemen-
tation details of this calibration procedure.
B. Measurement Resolution and Occlusion
In this paper we consider two types of resolution: ﬁrst,
the optical resolution which is the ability of the camera to
capture in detail the object in the ﬁeld of view; this is deﬁned
by the sensor’s pixel size in micrometers together with the
number of pixels needed to form a feature in the image.
Second, the measurement resolution, (also known as height
resolution), refers to the minimum change in the position of
the laser line that can be detected by the camera along the
As discussed in Section V-C, in order to choose good
camera placement we extend the coverage model to account
for measurement resolution. As will be made clear, the
addition of this factor yields a more accurate description
of coverage which is closely related to the a posteriori
performance of the task.
Sensor planning in laser based tasks is directly related to
the accuracy of the measurements and the completeness of
the image; performance is the degree of accuracy and cov-
erage that the system is is able to achieve. The performance
of laser scanner tasks is negatively affected by two types of
occlusion: laser occlusion and camera occlusion . The
ﬁrst occurs when the laser is unable to illuminate a point in
the object that needs to be visible from the camera, this is
generally the case for non-convex shapes. The second takes
place when the camera is unable to image the scene due
to self-occlusion of the object of interest. Occlusion is not
addressed in this paper and is left as subject for future work.
III. COVE RAGE STRENG TH MO DE L
In previous work, Mavrinac et al. , ,  developed a
coverage strength model which includes most of the camera’s
characteristics and properties; among these are the extrinsic
and intrinsic parameters as well as the optical properties
of the lens, the camera’s sensor and several intuitive task
parameters which will be described in this section.
A. General Model
The coverage strength model of a given camera system
assigns to every point in the stimulus space a measure of
Deﬁnition 1: The three-dimensional directional space
D3=R3×[0, π]×[0,2π)consists of three-dimensional
Euclidean space plus direction, with elements of the form
(x, y, z, ρ, η).
Deﬁnition 2: A coverage strength model is a mapping C:
D3→[0,1], for which C(p), for any p∈D3, is the strength
of coverage at p.
Deﬁnition 3: A relevance model is a mapping R:D3→
[0,1], for which R(p), for any p∈D3, is the minimum
desired coverage strength or coverage priority at p.
We term p∈D3adirectional point. For convenience,
we denote its spatial component ps= (px,py)or ps=
(px,py,pz)and its directional component pd= (pρ,pη).
The coverage performance of a sensor system is given by
Cis the coverage strength model sampled on a
discrete grid of points in D3, similarly, ˙
Ris the discretized
Here we detail the coverage strength model
parametrization for cameras, which consists of four
components: visibility, resolution, focus, and direction
(angle of view). We omit most of the derivation
as this is covered in previous work . Throughout,
B[0,1](x) = min(max(x, 0),1) is a function that limits the
value xto [0,1].
The ﬁrst component, CV, characterizes visibility. The
pinhole camera model is used to compute the angles of
the ﬁeld of view of the camera. A task parameter γis
introduced to account for the partial coverage of non-point
features located near the boundaries of the ﬁeld of view. γ
is measured in pixels and it reﬂects the expected size of the
feature’s neighborhood. The horizontal and vertical cross-
sections are given by
CV h(p) = B[0,1]
pz+ sin(αhl),sin(αhr )−px
CV v(p) = B[0,1]
pz+ sin(αvt),sin(αv b)−py
where αhl,αhr are the horizontal angles of view, and αvt
and αvb are the vertical angles of view, of a rectilinear
projected image, γhand γvare the horizontal and vertical
offsets calculated from γ(see Mavrinac et al.).
the complete CVis given by
CV(p) = min(CV h(p), CV v (p)) if pz>0,
The second component, CR, characterizes pixel resolution
(number of pixels per unit distance). The resolution is a func-
tion of the distance between a point and the principal point
along the optical axis. Two task parameters are introduced;
R1which is the ideal pixel resolution and R2which is the
minimum resolution. The resolution component is given by
CR(p) = B[0,1] z2−pz
for R1> R2, where the values of z1and z2are given by
(10), substituting task parameters R1and R2, respectively,
The third component, CF, characterizes focus (depth of
ﬁeld). The task parameter cmax indicates the maximum blur
circle diameter that can be tolerated.
The component CFis given by
CF(p) = B[0,1] min pz−zn
where the values of znand zfare the near and far limits of
the depth of ﬁeld as given by (12) substituting cmax for c.
Similarly substituting cmin for cin (12) yields z⊳and z⊲.
The fourth component, CD, characterizes direction (angle
of view). A point p is visible if the camera lies in the half-
space deﬁned by the plane tangent to the surface of the point;
p is visible from the camera only if
rcos pηarctan r
The task parameters ζ1and ζ2are the ideal and maximum
angles between the normal of a feature and the optical axis.
The direction component is given by
CD(p) = B[0,1] Θ(p)−π+ζ2
The full model is given by
C(p) = CV(p)CR(p)CF(p)CD(p)(15)
IV. SEN SO R PLA NN ING
The following iterative procedure is an application of the
coverage strength model, the objective is to select good
camera conﬁgurations from a feasible solution space.
1. Based on the geometry of the scene, predeﬁne a
discrete solution space: from an initial conﬁguration,
iteratively change the camera parameters. For simplic-
ity these are categorized as position, orientation, and
2. Deﬁne the relevance model for the task. In this case the
relevance model is a discetized subset of the laser plane
within the operational ﬁeld of view of the camera, and
it is in the same reference frame.
3. Select a camera conﬁguration from the solution space.
4. Compute the coverage strength of the selected conﬁg-
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 over the solution space and
output the conﬁguration with the highest coverage
Moreover, if it is desired to change the camera conﬁgu-
ration, such as a change in the optics (i.e. aperture, focal
length); this model facilitates the investigation of the effect
on the performance of the imaging system; thus, the need to
make any physical changes is eliminated.
V. EX PE RI ME NTAL RESULTS
In the experiments, the camera used is the SICK-IVP
Ranger E industrial 3D camera with a laser line projector.
The camera and laser were mounted and calibrated using two
different calibration techniques: laser line calibration 
and full camera calibration .
Laser line calibration is used to produce the lookup table
required by the ranger to output calibrated images. Calibrated
images have pixel values given in millimeters with respect
to the reference frame deﬁned during calibration.
Full calibration1is used to compute the camera’s intrin-
sic and extrinsic parameters that are required to generate
the coverage model. The laser line calibration generates a
mapping from a two-dimensional plane to a two-dimensional
plane, from this mapping the three-dimensional pose of the
camera cannot be estimated directly. Moreover the current
laser line calibration method does not compute the focal
length, therefore full calibration is also required in addition
to the look-up-table generation. Lens distortion was corrected
in all the experiments.
With the system mounted and calibrated, several pictures
of the target were taken using different camera-laser con-
ﬁgurations. The system had to be calibrated every time the
camera and laser where rearranged. Different target positions
were used in order to cover most of the ﬁeld of view of the
camera and thus not limit the results to a particular case; the
1Performing two different types of calibration in this paper is only
necessary for the experiments and is not normally required for sensor
accuracy of the measurements is not the same everywhere in
the ﬁeld of view; this is caused by perspective projection.
The target is the calibration object used for laser calibra-
tion, it has a series of triangles of known dimensions. The
image processing software developed in HALCON takes as
an input the calibrated image generated using the look-up-
table available from calibration, then, the software detects
the triangles on the image and measures the height.
In this experiment, we use our Adolpus2simulation soft-
ware to compute the coverage performance for a particular
camera conﬁguration. The model is parameterized using the
camera system. The intrinsic and extrinsic parameters used in
the model are those of the physical system. Most of the image
processing and calibration is performed using the HALCON
machine vision libraries .
The camera system was estimated as shown in the simu-
lation example in Figure 2
Fig. 2. Software Simulation
C. Task-Related Parametrization
Range cameras are very robust to blur due to de-focus;
when a proﬁle is acquired by the camera and the laser
line is extracted, the camera computes the center of gravity,
allowing for high accuracy even with an image that is out
of focus. The focus parameter was set to a relatively large
value; blur circles of 1.0 mm are the maximum blur allowed.
The relevance model in this experiment is deﬁned as the
points of interest of the target; which are the crests and
valleys of the triangular shape in the calibration target. The
points of interest are directional points in R3, with direction
normal to the face of the features themselves; in other words
the direction is parallel to the yaxis. (see Figure 1).
The ideal angle for best resolution is ζ1= 0; the resolution
of the camera increases as the angle α, (see Figure 1),
increases until the optical axis of the camera becomes
orthogonal to the laser plane . The second parameter
was selected as the angle at which the camera can no longer
collect any useful information, so ζ2=π
2Adolphus is free software licensed under the GNU General Public
License. Complete Python source code and documentation are available
The parameters γ, R1and R2are measured in pixels.
An estimated size of the features detected by the image
processing software was selected as the value for γ, so γ= 6,
similarly R1= 5.22 and R2= 1.0were selected as the ideal
and minimum cutoff resolutions, respectively.
D. Results and Analysis
Using the measurement software, the data was compared
with the ground truth; this is to establish the performance
of the physical system. The measured performance is then
compared with the coverage strength. As an example, four
examples from the experiment data pool are shown in table
COVE RAG E STRE NG TH AN D TH E MEA SUR EME NT ER ROR
Camera αCoverage Strength Measurement Error (mm)
C1 53.88◦0.6122 0.1472
C2 51.18◦0.5706 0.4498
C3 34.46◦0.3275 0.8167
C4 16.91◦0.1859 0.9311
where αis the angle between the laser plane and the optical
axis of the camera, as shown in Figure 1.
0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4 0.45 0.5 0.55 0.6 0.65
Fig. 3. Performance Correlation
The Pearson correlation coefﬁcient is calculated between
the coverage metric and the measurement error. The corre-
lation is r=−0.8508.
The predicted performance of the system measured
throughout the coverage strength is closely related to the
performance of the task, it is clear that choosing camera
conﬁguration number one from the example in table I will
yield the most accurate results. Sensor planning is then pos-
sible by predeﬁning a set of feasible camera conﬁgurations
and then computing the coverage strength to select the one
with the highest value.
VI. CONCLUSIONS AND FU TU RE WO RK
The sensor planning task for the case of visual sensors
can be achieved through the selection of best-camera conﬁg-
uration based on the information provided by the coverage
strength model. Moreover the coverage strength model can
be easily adapted according to the needs of the task. It has
been shown that the model is ﬂexible to another kind of
task: three-dimensional measurement where the model was
adapted to account for the height resolution.
B. Future Work
As described in section II-B, laser scanners are highly
affected by camera occlusion; the laser light is being blocked
by the object of interest which is not known a priori. This
can be seen as dynamic occlusion which is hard to predict
and include in the coverage metric. One way to approach
this in future work is to develop a probabilistic model for
camera occlusion. Another, and more interesting subject is
to ﬁnd a suitable method for optimal sensor placement; exact
solutions are not feasible because of the computational cost
as explained by H¨
orster et al. , the challenge is then to
ﬁnd the best approximation.
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