Avoiding Dead Ends in Real-Time Heuristic Search

AAAI Conferences

Many systems, such as mobile robots, need to be controlled in real time. Real-time heuristic search is a popular on-line planning paradigm that supports concurrent planning and execution. However,existing methods do not incorporate a notion of safety and we show that they can perform poorly in domains that contain dead-end states from which a goal cannot be reached. We introduce new real-time heuristic search methods that can guarantee safety if the domain obeys certain properties. We test these new methods on two different simulated domains that contain dead ends, one that obeys the properties and one that does not. We find that empirically the new methods provide good performance. We hope this work encourages further efforts to widen the applicability of real-time planning.


Achieving Goals Quickly Using Real-time Search: Experimental Results in Video Games

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

In real-time domains such as video games, planning happens concurrently with execution and the planning algorithm has a strictly bounded amount of time before it must return the next action for the agent to execute. We explore the use of real-time heuristic search in two benchmark domains inspired by video games. Unlike classic benchmarks such as grid pathfinding and the sliding tile puzzle, these new domains feature exogenous change and directed state space graphs. We consider the setting in which planning and acting are concurrent and we use the natural objective of minimizing goal achievement time. Using both the classic benchmarks and the new domains, we investigate several enhancements to a leading real-time search algorithm, LSS-LRTA*. We show experimentally that 1) it is better to plan after each action or to use a dynamically sized lookahead, 2) A*-based lookahead can cause undesirable actions to be selected, and 3) on-line de-biasing of the heuristic can lead to improved performance. We hope this work encourages future research on applying real-time search in dynamic domains.


Improved Safe Real-time Heuristic Search

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

A fundamental concern in real-time planning is the presence of dead-ends in the state space, from which no goal is reachable. Recently, the SafeRTS algorithm was proposed for searching in such spaces. SafeRTS exploits a user-provided predicate to identify safe states, from which a goal is likely reachable, and attempts to maintain a backup plan for reaching a safe state at all times. In this paper, we study the SafeRTS approach, identify certain properties of its behavior, and design an improved framework for safe real-time search. We prove that the new approach performs at least as well as SafeRTS and present experimental results showing that its promise is fulfilled in practice.


Avoiding and Escaping Depressions in Real-Time Heuristic Search

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Heuristics used for solving hard real-time search problems have regions with depressions. Such regions are bounded areas of the search space in which the heuristic function is inaccurate compared to the actual cost to reach a solution. Early real-time search algorithms, like LRTA*, easily become trapped in those regions since the heuristic values of their states may need to be updated multiple times, which results in costly solutions. State-of-the-art real-time search algorithms, like LSS-LRTA* or LRTA*(k), improve LRTA*'s mechanism to update the heuristic, resulting in improved performance. Those algorithms, however, do not guide search towards avoiding depressed regions. This paper presents depression avoidance, a simple real-time search principle to guide search towards avoiding states that have been marked as part of a heuristic depression. We propose two ways in which depression avoidance can be implemented: mark-and-avoid and move-to-border. We implement these strategies on top of LSS-LRTA* and RTAA*, producing 4 new real-time heuristic search algorithms: aLSS-LRTA*, daLSS-LRTA*, aRTAA*, and daRTAA*. When the objective is to find a single solution by running the real-time search algorithm once, we show that daLSS-LRTA* and daRTAA* outperform their predecessors sometimes by one order of magnitude. Of the four new algorithms, daRTAA* produces the best solutions given a fixed deadline on the average time allowed per planning episode. We prove all our algorithms have good theoretical properties: in finite search spaces, they find a solution if one exists, and converge to an optimal after a number of trials.


Real-Time Search in Dynamic Worlds

AAAI Conferences

For problems such as pathfinding in video games and robotics, a search algorithm must be real-time (return the next move within a fixed time bound) and dynamic (accommodate edge costs that can increase and decrease before the goal is reached). Existing real-time search algorithms, such as LSS-LRTA*, can handle edge cost increases but do not handle edge cost decreases. Existing dynamic search algorithms, such as D* Lite, are not real-time. We show how these two families of algorithms can be combined using bidirectional search, producing Real-Time D* (RTD*), the first real-time search algorithm designed for dynamic worlds. Our empirical evaluation shows that, for dynamic grid pathfinding, RTD* results in significantly shorter trajectories than either LSS-LRTA* or naive real-time adaptations of D* Lite because of its ability to opportunistically exploit shortcuts.