Abstract Reasoning for Planning and Coordination

B. J. Clement, E. H. Durfee and A. C. Barrett

The judicious use of abstraction can help planning agents to identify key interactions between actions, and resolve them, without getting bogged down in details. However, ignoring the wrong details can lead agents into building plans that do not work, or into costly backtracking and replanning once overlooked interdependencies come to light. We claim that associating systematically-generated summary information with plans' abstract operators can ensure plan correctness, even for asynchronously-executed plans that must be coordinated across multiple agents, while still achieving valuable efficiency gains. In this paper, we formally characterize hierarchical plans whose actions have temporal extent, and describe a principled method for deriving summarized state and metric resource information for such actions. We provide sound and complete algorithms, along with heuristics, to exploit summary information during hierarchical refinement planning and plan coordination. Our analyses and experiments show that, under clearcut and reasonable conditions, using summary information can speed planning as much as doubly exponentially even for plans involving interacting subproblems.

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