E - STRIPS: Existential Quantification in Planning and Constraint Satisfaction

Francès G, Geffner H. E-STRIPS: Existential Quantification in Planning and Constraint Satisfaction. Proceedings of the 25th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2016)

Existentially quantified variables in goals and action preconditions are part of the standard PDDL planning language, yet few planners support them, while those that do compile them away at an exponential cost. In this work, we argue that existential variables are an essential feature for representing and reasoning with constraints in planning, and that it is harmful to compile them away or avoid them altogether, since this hides part of the problem structure that can be exploited computationally. We show how to do this by formulating an extension of the standard delete-relaxation heuristics that handles existential variables. While this extension is simple, the consequences for both modeling and computation are important. Furthermore, by allowing existential variables in STRIPS and treating them properly, CSPs can be represented and solved in a direct manner as action-less, fluent-less STRIPS planning problems, something important for problems involving restrictions. In addition, functional fluents in Functional STRIPS can be compiled away with no effect on the structure and informativeness of the resulting heuristic. Experiments are reported comparing our native ESTRIPS planner with state-of-the-art STRIPS planners over compiled and propositional encodings, and with a Functional STRIPS planner.

 

Additional material:

  • The FS Planner: The exact version of the FS planner used to run the tests for the experimental section will soon be published into the main planner repository, but is available until then under request.
  • Benchmarks: The exact benchmarks that were used to run the tests for the experimental section of the paper can be found here. Each subdirectory name (e.g. block-grouping-strips-ex/) is made up by the name of the particular planning domain (block-grouping) plus a number of tags indicating the type of encoding (STRIPS with existential quantification, in this case, but could also be e.g. fn for Functional STRIPS, or merely strips for standard STRIPS without existential quantification). Random instance generators are available under request.