The Metric-FF Planning System: Translating ``Ignoring Delete Lists'' to Numeric State Variables

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Planning with numeric state variables has been a challenge for many years, and was a part of the 3rd International Planning Competition (IPC-3). Currently one of the most popular and successful algorithmic techniques in STRIPS planning is to guide search by a heuristic function, where the heuristic is based on relaxing the planning task by ignoring the delete lists of the available actions.

We present a natural extension of ``ignoring delete lists'' to numeric state variables, preserving the relevant theoretical properties of the STRIPS relaxation under the condition that the numeric task at hand is ``monotonic''. We then identify a subset of the numeric IPC-3 competition language, ``linear tasks'', where monotonicity can be achieved by pre-processing. Based on that, we extend the algorithms used in the heuristic planning system FF to linear tasks. The resulting system Metric-FF is, according to the IPC-3 results which we discuss, one of the two currently most efficient numeric planners.

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