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Authors:Zhongqiang Ren, Bunyod Suvonov, Guofei Chen, Botao He, Yijie Liao, Cornelia Fermuller, Ji Zhang

Abstract:This paper investigates Path planning Among Movable Obstacles (PAMO), which seeks a minimum cost collision-free path among static obstacles from start to goal while allowing the robot to push away movable obstacles (i.e., objects) along its path when needed. To develop planners that are complete and optimal for PAMO, the planner has to search a giant state space involving both the location of the robot as well as the locations of the objects, which grows exponentially with respect to the number of objects. The main idea in this paper is that, only a small fraction of this giant state space needs to be explored during planning as guided by a heuristic, and most of the objects far away from the robot are intact, which thus leads to runtime efficient algorithms. Based on this idea, this paper introduces two PAMO formulations, i.e., bi-objective and resource constrained problems in an occupancy grid, and develops PAMO*, a search method with completeness and solution optimality guarantees, to solve the two problems. We then further extend PAMO* to hybrid-state PAMO* to plan in continuous spaces with high-fidelity interaction between the robot and the objects. Our results show that, PAMO* can often find optimal solutions within a second in cluttered environments with up to 400 objects.

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Authors:Anoop Bhat, Geordan Gutow, Bhaskar Vundurthy, Zhongqiang Ren, Sivakumar Rathinam, Howie Choset

Abstract:The moving target traveling salesman problem with obstacles (MT-TSP-O) is a generalization of the traveling salesman problem (TSP) where, as its name suggests, the targets are moving. A solution to the MT-TSP-O is a trajectory that visits each moving target during a certain time window(s), and this trajectory avoids stationary obstacles. We assume each target moves at a constant velocity during each of its time windows. The agent has a speed limit, and this speed limit is no smaller than any target's speed. This paper presents the first complete algorithm for finding feasible solutions to the MT-TSP-O. Our algorithm builds a tree where the nodes are agent trajectories intercepting a unique sequence of targets within a unique sequence of time windows. We generate each of a parent node's children by extending the parent's trajectory to intercept one additional target, each child corresponding to a different choice of target and time window. This extension consists of planning a trajectory from the parent trajectory's final point in space-time to a moving target. To solve this point-to-moving-target subproblem, we define a novel generalization of a visibility graph called a moving target visibility graph (MTVG). Our overall algorithm is called MTVG-TSP. To validate MTVG-TSP, we test it on 570 instances with up to 30 targets. We implement a baseline method that samples trajectories of targets into points, based on prior work on special cases of the MT-TSP-O. MTVG-TSP finds feasible solutions in all cases where the baseline does, and when the sum of the targets' time window lengths enters a critical range, MTVG-TSP finds a feasible solution with up to 38 times less computation time.

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Abstract:This paper considers a trajectory planning problem for a robot navigating complex terrains, which arises in applications ranging from autonomous mining vehicles to planetary rovers. The problem seeks to find a low-cost dynamically feasible trajectory for the robot. The problem is challenging as it requires solving a non-linear optimization problem that often has many local minima due to the complex terrain. To address the challenge, we propose a method called Pareto-optimal Warm-started Trajectory Optimization (PWTO) that attempts to combine the benefits of graph search and trajectory optimization, two very different approaches to planning. PWTO first creates a state lattice using simplified dynamics of the robot and leverages a multi-objective graph search method to obtain a set of paths. Each of the paths is then used to warm-start a local trajectory optimization process, so that different local minima are explored to find a globally low-cost solution. In our tests, the solution cost computed by PWTO is often less than half of the costs computed by the baselines. In addition, we verify the trajectories generated by PWTO in Gazebo simulation in complex terrains with both wheeled and quadruped robots. The code of this paper is open sourced and can be found at https://github.com/rap-lab-org/public_pwto.

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Authors:Chen Wang, Kaiyi Ji, Junyi Geng, Zhongqiang Ren, Taimeng Fu, Fan Yang, Yifan Guo, Haonan He, Xiangyu Chen, Zitong Zhan(+9 more)

Abstract:Data-driven methods such as reinforcement and imitation learning have achieved remarkable success in robot autonomy. However, their data-centric nature still hinders them from generalizing well to ever-changing environments. Moreover, collecting large datasets for robotic tasks is often impractical and expensive. To overcome these challenges, we introduce a new self-supervised neural-symbolic (NeSy) computational framework, imperative learning (IL), for robot autonomy, leveraging the generalization abilities of symbolic reasoning. The framework of IL consists of three primary components: a neural module, a reasoning engine, and a memory system. We formulate IL as a special bilevel optimization (BLO), which enables reciprocal learning over the three modules. This overcomes the label-intensive obstacles associated with data-driven approaches and takes advantage of symbolic reasoning concerning logical reasoning, physical principles, geometric analysis, etc. We discuss several optimization techniques for IL and verify their effectiveness in five distinct robot autonomy tasks including path planning, rule induction, optimal control, visual odometry, and multi-robot routing. Through various experiments, we show that IL can significantly enhance robot autonomy capabilities and we anticipate that it will catalyze further research across diverse domains.

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Abstract:This paper investigates a constrained inverse kinematic (IK) problem that seeks a feasible configuration of an articulated robot under various constraints such as joint limits and obstacle collision avoidance. Due to the high-dimensionality and complex constraints, this problem is often solved numerically via iterative local optimization. Classic local optimization methods take joint angles as the decision variable, which suffers from non-linearity caused by the trigonometric constraints. Recently, distance-based IK methods have been developed as an alternative approach that formulates IK as an optimization over the distances among points attached to the robot and the obstacles. Although distance-based methods have demonstrated unique advantages, they still suffer from low computational efficiency, since these approaches usually ignore the chain structure in the kinematics of serial robots. This paper proposes a new method called propagative distance optimization for constrained inverse kinematics (PDO-IK), which captures and leverages the chain structure in the distance-based formulation and expedites the optimization by computing forward kinematics and the Jacobian propagatively along the kinematic chain. Test results show that PDO-IK runs up to two orders of magnitude faster than the existing distance-based methods under joint limits constraints and obstacle avoidance constraints. It also achieves up to three times higher success rates than the conventional joint-angle-based optimization methods for IK problems. The high runtime efficiency of PDO-IK allows the real-time computation (10$-$1500 Hz) and enables a simulated humanoid robot with 19 degrees of freedom (DoFs) to avoid moving obstacles, which is otherwise hard to achieve with the baselines.

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Abstract:This paper considers a Min-Max Multiple Traveling Salesman Problem (MTSP), where the goal is to find a set of tours, one for each agent, to collectively visit all the cities while minimizing the length of the longest tour. Though MTSP has been widely studied, obtaining near-optimal solutions for large-scale problems is still challenging due to its NP-hardness. Recent efforts in data-driven methods face challenges of the need for hard-to-obtain supervision and issues with high variance in gradient estimations, leading to slow convergence and highly suboptimal solutions. We address these issues by reformulating MTSP as a bilevel optimization problem, using the concept of imperative learning (IL). This involves introducing an allocation network that decomposes the MTSP into multiple single-agent traveling salesman problems (TSPs). The longest tour from these TSP solutions is then used to self-supervise the allocation network, resulting in a new self-supervised, bilevel, end-to-end learning framework, which we refer to as imperative MTSP (iMTSP). Additionally, to tackle the high-variance gradient issues during the optimization, we introduce a control variate-based gradient estimation algorithm. Our experiments showed that these innovative designs enable our gradient estimator to converge 20% faster than the advanced reinforcement learning baseline and find up to 80% shorter tour length compared with Google OR-Tools MTSP solver, especially in large-scale problems (e.g. 1000 cities and 15 agents).

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Abstract:This paper introduces a new formulation that finds the optimum for the Moving-Target Traveling Salesman Problem (MT-TSP), which seeks to find a shortest path for an agent, that starts at a depot, visits a set of moving targets exactly once within their assigned time-windows, and returns to the depot. The formulation relies on the key idea that when the targets move along lines, their trajectories become convex sets within the space-time coordinate system. The problem then reduces to finding the shortest path within a graph of convex sets, subject to some speed constraints. We compare our formulation with the current state-of-the-art Mixed Integer Conic Program (MICP) solver for the MT-TSP. The experimental results show that our formulation outperforms the MICP for instances with up to 20 targets, with up to two orders of magnitude reduction in runtime, and up to a 60\% tighter optimality gap. We also show that the solution cost from the convex relaxation of our formulation provides significantly tighter lower bounds for the MT-TSP than the ones from the MICP.

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Abstract:Multi-Agent Combinatorial Path Finding (MCPF) seeks collision-free paths for multiple agents from their initial to goal locations, while visiting a set of intermediate target locations in the middle of the paths. MCPF is challenging as it involves both planning collision-free paths for multiple agents and target sequencing, i.e., solving traveling salesman problems to assign targets to and find the visiting order for the agents. Recent work develops methods to address MCPF while minimizing the sum of individual arrival times at goals. Such a problem formulation may result in paths with different arrival times and lead to a long makespan, the maximum arrival time, among the agents. This paper proposes a min-max variant of MCPF, denoted as MCPF-max, that minimizes the makespan of the agents. While the existing methods (such as MS*) for MCPF can be adapted to solve MCPF-max, we further develop two new techniques based on MS* to defer the expensive target sequencing during planning to expedite the overall computation. We analyze the properties of the resulting algorithm Deferred MS* (DMS*), and test DMS* with up to 20 agents and 80 targets. We demonstrate the use of DMS* on differential-drive robots.

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Abstract:We introduce a new bounding approach called Continuity* (C*) that provides optimality guarantees to the Moving-Target Traveling Salesman Problem (MT-TSP). Our approach relies on relaxing the continuity constraints on the agent's tour. This is done by partitioning the targets' trajectories into small sub-segments and allowing the agent to arrive at any point in one of the sub-segments and depart from any point in the same sub-segment when visiting each target. This lets us pose the bounding problem as a Generalized Traveling Salesman Problem (GTSP) in a graph where the cost of traveling an edge requires us to solve a new problem called the Shortest Feasible Travel (SFT). We also introduce C*-lite, which follows the same approach as C*, but uses simple and easy to compute lower-bounds to the SFT. We first prove that the proposed algorithms provide lower bounds to the MT-TSP. We also provide computational results to corroborate the performance of C* and C*-lite for instances with up to 15 targets. For the special case where targets travel along lines, we compare our C* variants with the SOCP based method, which is the current state-of-the-art solver for MT-TSP. While the SOCP based method performs well for instances with 5 and 10 targets, C* outperforms the SOCP based method for instances with 15 targets. For the general case, on average, our approaches find feasible solutions within ~4% of the lower bounds for the tested instances.

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Abstract:Multi-Agent Combinatorial Path Finding (MCPF) seeks collision-free paths for multiple agents from their initial locations to destinations, visiting a set of intermediate target locations in the middle of the paths, while minimizing the sum of arrival times. While a few approaches have been developed to handle MCPF, most of them simply direct the agent to visit the targets without considering the task duration, i.e., the amount of time needed for an agent to execute the task (such as picking an item) at a target location. MCPF is NP-hard to solve to optimality, and the inclusion of task duration further complicates the problem. This paper investigates heterogeneous task duration, where the duration can be different with respect to both the agents and targets. We develop two methods, where the first method post-processes the paths planned by any MCPF planner to include the task duration and has no solution optimality guarantee; and the second method considers task duration during planning and is able to ensure solution optimality. The numerical and simulation results show that our methods can handle up to 20 agents and 50 targets in the presence of task duration, and can execute the paths subject to robot motion disturbance.

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