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Let $\mathbf{T}_a, \mathbf{T}_b, \mathbf{T}_c \in SE(3)$ be rigid body transforms, and;

$$ \begin{equation} \mathbf{T}_c = \mathbf{T}_b^{-1}\mathbf{T}_a\mathbf{T}_b. \label{eq_basis} \end{equation} $$

We wish to find $\mathbf{T}_b$ given $\mathbf{T}_a, \mathbf{T}_c$.

I think this is equivalent to finding a change of basis between $\mathbf{T}_a$ and $\mathbf{T}_c$. My approach so far has been to decompose the problem into rotational and translational constraints as follows.

Let $\mathbf{R}_a \in SO(3)$ be the rotational component of $\mathbf{T}_a$, and $\mathbf{t}_a$ be the translational component. Then we have:

$$ \begin{bmatrix}\mathbf{R}_c & \mathbf{t}_c\\ \mathbf{0} & 1\end{bmatrix} = \begin{bmatrix}\mathbf{R}^{\top}_b & -\mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{t}_b\\ \mathbf{0} & 1\end{bmatrix} \begin{bmatrix}\mathbf{R}_a & \mathbf{t}_a\\ \mathbf{0} & 1\end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}\mathbf{R}_b & \mathbf{t}_b\\ \mathbf{0} & 1\end{bmatrix} $$

Expanding this equation and collecting terms gives the following set of matrix equations;

$$ (1)\ \ \ \mathbf{R}_c = \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{R}_a\mathbf{R}_b\\ (2)\ \ \ \mathbf{t}_c = \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{R}_a\mathbf{t}_b + \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{t}_a - \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{t}_b $$

In general, (1) has infinitely many solutions which form a circle. We can find them by the following;

Let $\mathbf{c}$ be the rotation axis of $\mathbf{R}_c$, i.e. $\mathbf{R}_c\mathbf{c} = \mathbf{c}$. Then;

$$ \mathbf{R}_c\mathbf{c} = \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{R}_a\mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{c} \\ \mathbf{c} = \mathbf{R}^{\top}_b\mathbf{R}_a\mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{c} \\ \mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{c} = \mathbf{R}_a\mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{c} $$

This means $\mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{c}$ is parallel to the rotation axis of $\mathbf{R}_a$. Hence $\mathbf{R}_b$ can be taken as any rotation taking $\mathbf{a}$ to $\mathbf{c}$, i.e. a rotation of the rotation axes.

As stated, there are infinitely many such rotations. We may choose $\mathbf{R}_b$ to be for example the rotation in the plane given by $\mathbf{a}\times\mathbf{c}$ by the angle $acos(\frac{\mathbf{a}\cdot\mathbf{c}}{|\mathbf{a}||\mathbf{c}|})$. There are a few degenerate cases, for example if $\mathbf{R}_c = \mathbf{I}$ or $\mathbf{R}_a = \mathbf{I}$, or if $\mathbf{R}_c = \mathbf{R}_a$. I dealt with those here.

This takes care of (1).

Substituting our choice for $\mathbf{R}_b$ into (2), and solving for $\mathbf{t}_b$ we find;

$$ \left(\mathbf{R}_a - \mathbf{I}_{3\times3}\right)\mathbf{t}_b = \mathbf{R}_b\mathbf{t}_c - \mathbf{t}_a $$

Where $\mathbf{I}_{3\times3}$ is the 3x3 identity matrix. The term $\mathbf{R}_a - \mathbf{I}_{3\times3}$ gives a singular matrix since $\mathbf{R}_a$ has only 1 as its eigenvalue. The resulting system therefore has zero or infinitely many solutions for any choice of $\mathbf{R}_b$.

When does this system have solutions at all? What are the additional constraints? Is there a neater way of approaching this problem? What additional constraints are necessary to give a unique solution?

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