Signed Distance Functions (SDFs) on NVIDIA GPUs.

An SDF library which offers

  • Support for storage of various voxel types
  • GPU accelerated agorithms such as:
    • TSDF construction
    • ESDF construction
  • ROS2 interface (see issac_ros_nvblox)
  • Python bindings (coming soon)

Do we need another SDF library? That depends on your use case. If your interested in:

  • Path planning: We provide GPU accelerated, incremental algorithms for calculating the Euclidian Signed Distance Field (ESDF) which is useful for colision checking, which is critical robotic pathplanning. In contrast, existing GPU-accelerated libraries target reconstruction only and are general not useful in a robotics context.
  • GPU acceleration: Our previous works voxblox and voxgraph are used for path planning, however are CPU only, which limits the speed of these toolboxes (and therefore the resolution of the maps they can build in real-time).

Here we show slices through a distance function generated from nvblox using data from the 3DMatch dataset. slice

Note from the authors

This package is under active development. Feel free to make an issue for bugs or feature requests, and we always welcome pull requests!

ROS2 Interface

This repo contains the core library which can be linked into users’ projects. If you want to use nvblox on a robot out-of-the-box, please see our ROS2 interface, which downloads and builds the core library during installation.

Native Installation

If you want to build natively, please follow these instructions. Instructions for docker are further below.

Install dependencies

We depend on:

  • gtest
  • glog
  • gflags (to run experiments)
  • CUDA 10.2 – 11.5 (others might work but are untested)
  • Eigen (no need to explicitly install, a recent version is built into the library) Please run

sudo apt-get install -y libgoogle-glog-dev libgtest-dev libgflags-dev python3-dev
cd /usr/src/googletest && sudo cmake . && sudo cmake --build . --target install

Build and run tests

cd nvblox/nvblox
mkdir build
cd build
cmake .. && make && ctest

Run an example

In this example we fuse data from the 3DMatch dataset. First let’s grab the dataset. Here I’m downloading it to my dataset folder ~/dataset/3dmatch.

wget http://vision.princeton.edu/projects/2016/3DMatch/downloads/rgbd-datasets//datasets/3dmatch/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2.zip -P ~/datasets/3dmatch
unzip ~/datasets/3dmatch//datasets/3dmatch/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2.zip -d ~/datasets/3dmatch

Navigate to and run the fuse_3dmatch binary. From the nvblox base folder run

cd nvblox/build/experiments
./fuse_3dmatch ~/datasets/3dmatch//datasets/3dmatch/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2/ --esdf_frame_subsampling 3000 --mesh_output_path mesh.ply

Once it’s done we can view the output mesh using the Open3D viewer.

pip3 install open3d
python3 ../../visualization/visualize_mesh.py mesh.ply

you should see a mesh of a room: slice


We have several dockerfiles which layer on top of one another for the following purposes:

  • Docker.deps
    • This installs our dependencies.
    • This is used in our CI, where the later steps (building and testing) are taken care of by Jenkins (and not docker).
  • Docker.build
    • Layers on top of Docker.deps.
    • This builds our package.
    • This is where you get off the layer train if you wanna run stuff (and don’t care if it’s tested).
  • Docker.test
    • Layers on top of Docker.build.
    • Runs ours tests.
    • Useful for checking if things are likely to pass the tests in CI.

We are reliant on nvidia docker. Install the NVIDIA Container Toolkit following the instructions on that website.

We use the GPU during build, not only at run time. In the default configuration the GPU is only used at at runtime. One must therefore set the default runtime. Add "default-runtime": "nvidia" to /etc/docker/daemon.json such that it looks like:

    "runtimes": {
        "nvidia": {
            "path": "/usr/bin/nvidia-container-runtime",
            "runtimeArgs": []
    "default-runtime": "nvidia" 

Restart docker

sudo systemctl restart docker

Now Let’s build Dockerfile.deps docker image. This image install contains our dependacies.

docker build -t nvblox_deps -f Dockerfile.deps .

Now let’s build the Dockerfile.build. This image layers on the last, and actually builds the nvblox library.

docker build -t nvblox -f Dockerfile.build .

Now let’s run the 3DMatch example inside the docker. Note there’s some additional complexity in the docker run command such that we can forward X11 to the host (we’re going to be view a reconstruction in a GUI). Run the container using:

xhost local:docker
docker run -it --net=host --env="DISPLAY" -v $HOME/.Xauthority:/root/.Xauthority:rw -v /tmp/.X11-unix:/tmp/.X11-unix:rw nvblox

Let’s download a dataset and run the example (this is largely a repeat of “Run an example” above).

apt-get update
apt-get install unzip
wget http://vision.princeton.edu/projects/2016/3DMatch/downloads/rgbd-datasets/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2.zip -P ~/datasets/3dmatch
unzip ~/datasets/3dmatch//datasets/3dmatch/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2.zip -d ~/datasets/3dmatch
cd nvblox/nvblox/build/experiments/
./fuse_3dmatch ~/datasets/3dmatch//datasets/3dmatch/sun3d-mit_76_studyroom-76-1studyroom2/ --esdf_frame_subsampling 3000 --mesh_output_path mesh.ply

Now let’s visualize. From the same experiments folder run:

apt-get install python3-pip libgl1-mesa-glx
pip3 install open3d
python3 ../../visualization/visualize_mesh.py mesh.ply

Additional instructions for Jetson Xavier

These instructions are for a native build on the Jetson Xavier. A Docker based build is coming soon.

The instructions for the native build above work, with one exception:

We build using CMake’s modern CUDA integration and therefore require a more modern version of CMAKE than (currently) ships with jetpack. Luckily the Cmake developer team provide a means obtaining recent versions of CMake through apt.

  1. Obtain a copy of the signing key:

wget -qO - https://apt.kitware.com/keys/kitware-archive-latest.asc |
    sudo apt-key add -
  1. Add the repository to your sources list and update.

sudo apt-add-repository 'deb https://apt.kitware.com/ubuntu/ bionic main'
sudo apt-get update
  1. Update!
sudo apt-get install cmake


This code is under an open-source license (Apache 2.0). 🙂


View Github