The PETLON Algorithm to Plan Efficiently for Task-Level-Optimal Navigation

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Shih-Yun Lo
Shiqi Zhang
Peter Stone


Intelligent mobile robots have recently become able to operate autonomously in large-scale indoor environments for extended periods of time. In this process, mobile robots need the capabilities of both task and motion planning. Task planning in such environments involves sequencing the robot’s high-level goals and subgoals, and typically requires reasoning about the locations of people, rooms, and objects in the environment, and their interactions to achieve a goal. One of the prerequisites for optimal task planning that is often overlooked is having an accurate estimate of the actual distance (or time) a robot needs to navigate from one location to another. State-of-the-art motion planning algorithms, though often computationally complex, are designed exactly for this purpose of finding routes through constrained spaces.

In this article, we focus on integrating task and motion planning (TMP) to achieve task-level-optimal planning for robot navigation while maintaining manageable computational efficiency. To this end, we introduce TMP algorithm PETLON (Planning Efficiently for Task-Level-Optimal Navigation), including two configurations with different trade-offs over computational expenses between task and motion planning, for everyday service tasks using a mobile robot. Experiments have been conducted both in simulation and on a mobile robot using object delivery tasks in an indoor office environment. The key observation from the results is that PETLON is more efficient than a baseline approach that pre-computes motion costs of all possible navigation actions, while still producing plans that are optimal at the task level. We provide results with two different task planning paradigms in the implementation of PETLON, and offer TMP practitioners guidelines for the selection of task planners from an engineering perspective.

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