Implicit-PDF: Non-Parametric Representation of Probability Distributions on the Rotation Manifold

Kieran Murphy · Carlos Esteves · Varun Jampani · Srikumar Ramalingam · Ameesh Makadia

Keywords: [ Embedding and Representation learning ]


In the deep learning era, the vast majority of methods to predict pose from a single image are trained to classify or regress to a single given ground truth pose per image. Such methods have two main shortcomings, i) they cannot represent uncertainty about the predictions, and ii) they cannot handle symmetric objects, where multiple (potentially infinite) poses may be correct. Only recently these shortcomings have been addressed, but current approaches as limited in that they cannot express the full rich space of distributions on the rotation manifold. To this end, we introduce a method to estimate arbitrary, non-parametric distributions on SO(3). Our key idea is to represent the distributions implicitly, with a neural network that estimates the probability density, given the input image and a candidate pose. At inference time, grid sampling or gradient ascent can be used to find the most likely pose, but it is also possible to evaluate the density at any pose, enabling reasoning about symmetries and uncertainty. This is the most general way of representing distributions on manifolds, and to demonstrate its expressive power we introduce a new dataset containing symmetric and nearly-symmetric objects. Our method also shows advantages on the popular object pose estimation benchmarks ModelNet10-SO(3) and T-LESS. Code, data, and visualizations may be found at

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