A visual tracking system is essential as a basis for visual servoing, autonomous navigation, path planning, robot-human interaction and other robotic functions. To execute various tasks in diverse and ever-changing environments, a mobile robot requires high levels of robustness, precision, environmental adaptability and real-time performance of the visual tracking system. In keeping with the application characteristics of our amphibious spherical robot, which was proposed for flexible and economical underwater exploration in 2012, an improved RGB-D visual tracking algorithm is proposed and implemented. Given the limited power source and computational capabilities of mobile robots, compressive tracking (CT), which is the effective and efficient algorithm that was proposed in 2012, was selected as the basis of the proposed algorithm to process colour images. A Kalman filter with a second-order motion model was implemented to predict the state of the target and select candidate patches or samples for the CT tracker. In addition, a variance ratio features shift (VR-V) tracker with a Kalman estimation mechanism was used to process depth images. Using a feedback strategy, the depth tracking results were used to assist the CT tracker in updating classifier parameters at an adaptive rate. In this way, most of the deficiencies of CT, including drift and poor robustness to occlusion and high-speed target motion, were partly solved. To evaluate the proposed algorithm, a Microsoft Kinect sensor, which combines colour and infrared depth cameras, was adopted for use in a prototype of the robotic tracking system. The experimental results with various image sequences demonstrated the effectiveness, robustness and real-time performance of the tracking system.
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