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Worldwide Competition Encourages AI Breakthroughs

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:39am
The University of Huddersfield

The deterministic track of the International Planning Competition is for programs designed to eliminate any element of chance from automated planning in a wide range of fields, such as logistics, robot manipulation, satellite movement and transport. A worldwide competition is designed to encourage breakthroughs in the use of artificial intelligence for automated planning and scheduling. High performance computers at the University of Huddersfield are being used to test the dozens of complex software programs that have been submitted to the International Planning Competition 2014, held as a component of the International Conference on Planning and Scheduling, which takes place in the USA in June.

The competition is held every two years and is divided into four categories, or tracks, the most significant of which is the “deterministic track.” This is for programs designed to eliminate any element of chance from automated planning in a wide range of fields, such as logistics, robot manipulation, satellite movement and transport. The deterministic track of the International Planning Competition is being run by the members of the University of Huddersfield’s Planning, Autonomy and Representation of Knowledge (PARK) research group: Dr Mauro Vallati, who is himself a two-time winner of the Learning Track of the contest, Dr Lukas Chrpa and Professor Lee McCluskey.

There have been some 75 entrants to the deterministic track of the 2014 contest.  They have submitted their problem-solving programs which will be tested on tasks and application domains that were devised and adapted by the University of Huddersfield trio.

For example, Dr Vallati devised a domain concerned with the scheduling of aircraft movement at an airport.  Professor McCluskey has been involved in a pan-European research project named Autonomic Road Transport Support Systems and for the International Planning Competition.  This has resulted in a road transport problem for entrants’ problem-solving programs to solve.

High Performance Computers

The competition has required intensive use of the University of Huddersfield’s high performance computers, with help from the HPC Research Group’s John Brennan and Ibad Kureshi.  Dr Vallati explains that every domain within the deterministic track contains up to 300 problems that have to be addressed by the software and as a result it has to be run for up 150 hours when it is tested.  This process has to be repeated for all of the 75 entrants.  It is hoped that the results and the names of the winners will be known by the end of May.

Winning one of the tracks of the International Planning Competition confers significant academic prestige.  The same goes for the presentation and publication of a paper at the International Conference on Planning and Scheduling, taking place between June 21st and 26th in New Hampshire, USA.  PARK members are between them co-authors of four papers that will be presented at the conference.

“Competitions are very good things especially in our academic area.  You get some highly motivated people spending a lot of time trying to win and this pushes the technology forward,” said Professor McCluskey.

There is also a significant legacy for the University of Huddersfield.  It will have a large number of advanced, problem-solving programs installed on its computers and these will be an important research tool and an aid in the development of new industrial collaboration.


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