COMP/ELEC/MECH 450 Project 3: Randomized Rigid Body Planning


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The documentation for OMPL can be found at
A broad class of motion planning algorithms consider only geometric constraints (e.g., bug algorithms,
visibility graph methods, PRM). These algorithms compute paths that check only whether the robot is in
collision with itself or its environment. In the motion planning literature, this problem is also known as
rigid body motion planning or the piano mover’s problem. Physical constraints on the robot (e.g., velocity
and acceleration limits, steering speed) are ignored in this formulation. While considering only geometric
constraints may seem simplistic, many manipulators can safely ignore dynamical effects during planning due
to their relatively low momentum or high torque motors. Formally, this is known as a quasistatic assumption.
The goal of this project is to implement a simple sampling-based motion planner in OMPL to plan for a rigid
body and then systematically compare your planner to existing methods in the library.
Random Tree Planner
The algorithm that you will be implementing is the Random Tree Planner, or RTP. The RTP algorithm is a
simple sampling-based method that grows a tree in the configuration space of the robot. RTP is loosely based
on a random walk of the configuration space and operates as follows:
1. Select a random configuration qa from the existing Random Tree.
2. Sample a random configuration qb from the configuration space. With a small probability, select the
goal configuration as qb instead of a random one.
3. Check whether the straight-line path between qa and qb in the C-space is valid (i.e., collision free). If
the path is valid, add the path from qa to qb to the tree.
4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until the goal state is added to the tree. Extract the final motion plan from the tree.
The tree is initialized with the starting configuration of the robot. You might notice that this procedure seems
very similar to other sampling-based algorithms that have been presented in class and in the reading. Many
sampling-based algorithms employ a similar core loop that utilizes the basic primitives of selection, sampling,
and local planning (checking). RTP is one of the simplest possible approaches, with no additional intelligence
in how configurations are sampled, selected, or checked. Improvements to this algorithm are out of scope for
this project, simply implement RTP as described above.
Benchmarking Motion Planners
Since many of the state-of-the-art algorithms for motion planning are built upon the concept of random
sampling (including RTP), one run is not sufficient to draw statistically meaningful conclusions about
the performance of your planner or any others. To help with evaluation, OMPL provides benchmarking
functionalities that execute one or more planners many times while recording performance metrics in a
The ompl::tools::Benchmark class operates in two phases. First is the planning phase, where all of the
planners are executed on the same problem for the given number of runs. Second is the analysis phase,
where the log file emitted by the benchmark class is post-processed into a SQLite database, and statistics
for many common metrics are plotted to a pdf using ompl benchmark, or using the online
analysis available through The benchmark facilities are extensively documented at code.
Note: ompl benchmark requires matplotlib v1.2+ for Python, which can be installed
through your favorite package manager or through Python’s pip program. The virtual machine should already
have this installed. The script will produce box plots for continuously-valued performance metrics. If you are
unfamiliar with these plots, Wikipedia provides a good reference. The script will merge with any existing
SQLite database with the same name, so take care to remove any previously existing database files before
running the script. You can also upload your SQLite database to to interactively view
your benchmark data.
Project exercises
1. Implement RTP for rigid body motion planning. At a minimum, your planner must derive from
ompl::base::Planner and correctly implement the solve(), clear(), and getPlannerData()
functions. Solve should emit an exact solution path when one is found. If time expires, solve should
also emit an approximate path that ends at the closest state to the goal in the tree.
• Your planner does not need to know the geometry of the robot or the environment, or the exact
C-space it is planning in. These concepts are abstracted away in OMPL so that planners can be
implemented generically.
2. Compute valid motion plans for a point robot within the plane and a square robot with known side
length that translates and rotates in the plane using OMPL. Note, instead of manually constructing the
state space for the square robot, OMPL provides a default implementation of the configuration space
2 ×S
, called ompl::base::SE2StateSpace.
• Develop at least two interesting environments for your robot to move in. Bounded environments
with axis-aligned rectangular obstacles are sufficient.
• Collision checking must be exact, and the robot should not leave the bounds of your environment.
Inexact collision checking will lead to invalid motion plans. Verify that states and edges are both
collision-free and that states do not leave the bounds of your environment.
• Visualize the world and the path that the robot takes to ensure that your planner and collision
checker are implemented correctly.
3. Benchmark your implementation of RTP in the 3D Cubicles and Twistycool scenarios from
Make sure to compare your planner against the PRM, EST, and RRT planners over at least 50 independent
runs. If all of the planners fail to find a solution, you will need to increase the computation time
allowed. See the appropriate .cfg files for the mesh names, start and goal configurations,
etc. Use the results from your benchmarking to back up claims in your report about RTP’s performance
• It may be helpful to start from an existing planner, like RRT, rather than implementing RTP from scratch.
Check under the directory omplapp/ompl/src/ompl/geometric/planners/rrt if you compiled
from source (or the virtual machine). The files are also found at,
and on the online documentation available at
• The getPlannerData function is implemented for all planners in OMPL. This method returns a
PlannerData object that contains the entire data structure (tree/graph) generated by the planner.
getPlannerData is very useful for visualizing and debugging your tree.
• If your clear() function implemented in RTP is incorrect, you might run into problems when
benchmarking as your planner’s internal data structures are not being refreshed.
• Solution paths can be easily visualized using the printAsMatrix function from the PathGeometric
class. Use any software you want to visualize this path, but provide your script with your submission.
See for more details.
• The ${OMPL DIR}/share/ompl/demos/SE3RigidBodyPlanning.cpp demo shows a code example of how to setup a problem using triangle meshes and benchmark planners. Feel free to use this as a
reference for the benchmark exercise. The ompl::app::SE3RigidBodyPlanning class derives from
• In exercise 3, make sure to link your program against libompl, libompl app, and libompl app base
against the problem instances. The provided Makefile given in the OMPL installation handout and the
virtual machine does this.
This project may be completed in pairs. Submissions are due Thursday October 5th at 1pm.
To submit your project, clean your build space with make clean, zip up the project directory into a file
named Project2 .zip, and submit to Canvas. Your code must
compile within a modern Linux environment. If your code compiled on the virtual machine, then it will be
fine. If you deem it necessary, also include a README with details on compiling and executing your code. In
addition to the archive, submit a short report that summarizes your experience from this project. The report
should be no longer than 5 pages in PDF format, and contain the following information:
• (5 points) A succinct statement of the problem that you solved.
• (5 points) A short description of the robots (their geometry) and configuration spaces you tested in
exercise 2.
• (5 points) Images of your environments and a description of the start-goal queries you tested in
exercise 2.
• (5 points) Summarize your experience in implementing the planner and testing in exercise 2. How
would you characterize the performance of your planner in these instances? What do the solution paths
look like?
• (15 points) Compare and contrast the solutions of your RTP with the PRM, EST, and RRT planners from
exercise 3. Elaborate on the performance of your RTP. Conclusions must be presented quantitatively
from the benchmark data. Consider the following metrics: computation time, path length, and the
number of states sampled (graph states).
• (5 points) Rate the difficulty of each exercise on a scale of 1–10 (1 being trivial, 10 being impossible).
Give an estimate of how many hours you spent on each exercise, and detail what was the hardest part
of the assignment.
Take time to complete your write-up. It is important to proofread and iterate over your thoughts. Reports
will be evaluated for not only the raw content, but also the quality and clarity of the presentation. When
referencing benchmarking results you must include the referenced data as figures within your report.
Additionally, you will be graded upon your implementation. Your code must compile, run, and solve
the problem correctly. Correctness of the implementation is paramount, but succinct, well-organized,
well-written, and well-documented code is also taken into consideration. Visualization is an important
component of providing evidence that your code is functioning properly. The breakdown of the grading of
the implementation is as follows:
1. (30 points) A correct implementation of RTP that generates valid motion plans.
2. (30 points) Benchmarking of RTP against other planners in all prescribed environments.
Those completing the project in pairs need only provide one submission.