Taming Numbers and Durations in the Model Checking Integrated Planning System

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The Model Checking Integrated Planning System (MIPS) is a temporal least commitment heuristic search planner based on a flexible object-oriented workbench architecture. Its design clearly separates explicit and symbolic directed exploration algorithms from the set of on-line and off-line computed estimates and associated data structures.

MIPS has shown distinguished performance in the last two international planning competitions. In the last event the description language was extended from pure propositional planning to include numerical state variables, action durations, and plan quality objective functions. Plans were no longer sequences of actions but time-stamped schedules.

As a participant of the fully automated track of the competition, MIPS has proven to be a general system; in each track and every benchmark domain it efficiently computed plans of remarkable quality. This article introduces and analyzes the most important algorithmic novelties that were necessary to tackle the new layers of expressiveness in the benchmark problems and to achieve a high level of performance.

The extensions include critical path analysis of sequentially generated plans to generate corresponding optimal parallel plans. The linear time algorithm to compute the parallel plan bypasses known NP hardness results for partial ordering by scheduling plans with respect to the set of actions and the imposed precedence relations. The efficiency of this algorithm also allows us to improve the exploration guidance: for each encountered planning state the corresponding approximate sequential plan is scheduled.

One major strength of MIPS is its static analysis phase that grounds and simplifies parameterized predicates, functions and operators, that infers knowledge to minimize the state description length, and that detects domain object symmetries. The latter aspect is analyzed in detail.

MIPS has been developed to serve as a complete and optimal state space planner, with admissible estimates, exploration engines and branching cuts. In the competition version, however, certain performance compromises had to be made, including floating point arithmetic, weighted heuristic search exploration according to an inadmissible estimate and parameterized optimization.

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