Scrubbing During Learning In Real-time Heuristic Search

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Nathan R. Sturtevant
Vadim Bulitko


Real-time agent-centered heuristic search is a well-studied problem where an agent that can only reason locally about the world must travel to a goal location using bounded computation and memory at each step. Many algorithms have been proposed for this problem and theoretical results have also been derived for the worst-case performance with simple examples demonstrating worst-case performance in practice. Lower bounds, however, have not been widely studied. In this paper we study best-case performance more generally and derive theoretical lower bounds for reaching the goal using LRTA*, a canonical example of a real-time agent-centered heuristic search algorithm. The results show that, given some reasonable restrictions on the state space and the heuristic function, the number of steps an LRTA*-like algorithm requires to reach the goal will grow asymptotically faster than the state space, resulting in ``scrubbing'' where the agent repeatedly visits the same state. We then show that while the asymptotic analysis does not hold for more complex real-time search algorithms, experimental results suggest that it is still descriptive of practical performance.

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