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Detecting already-visited regions based on their visual appearance helps reduce drift and position uncertainties in robot navigation and mapping. Inspired from content-based image retrieval, an efficient approach is the use of visual vocabularies to measure similarities between images. This way, images corresponding to the same scene region can be associated. State-of-the-art proposals that address this topic use prebuilt vocabularies that generally require a priori knowledge of the environment. We propose a novel method for appearance-based navigation and mapping where the visual vocabularies are built online, thus eliminating the need for prebuilt data. We also show that the proposed technique allows efficient loop-closure detection, even at small vocabulary sizes, resulting in a higher computational efficiency.