Path Planner Algorithm

A Path Planner is an algorithm that outputs a series of configuration space waypoints, which when linearly interpolated, produce a collision-free path from a starting c-space pose to a c-space or task-space target pose. The PathPlanner class provides an interface that specifies the necessary functions that must be fulfilled in order to specify a path planning algorithm that can interface with Omniverse Isaac Sim.

An implementation is provided using the NVIDIA-developed Lula library. (see Lula RRT)

Path Planner

The PathPlanner interface specifies functions for computing a series of configuration space waypoints, which when linearly interpolated, produce a collision-free path from a starting c-space pose to a c-space or task-space target pose. A PathPlanner uses the same set of functions to interface with the USD world as a Motion Policy Algorithm. Like a Motion Policy Algorithm, an instance of the PathPlanner class is not expected to use the same USD robot representation as Omniverse Isaac Sim. A PathPlanner may have its own internal representation of the robot, and there are necessary interface functions for performing the mapping between the internal robot representation and the robot Articulation.

Active and Watched Joints

The robot Articulation in Isaac Sim comes from a loaded USD file. This robot specification is not expected to perfectly match the specification used internally by a PathPlanner. To perform the appropriate mapping, a PathPlanner has two functions it must fulfill: PathPlanner.get_active_joints() and PathPlanner.get_watched_joints(). Both functions return a list of joint names in the order that the PathPlanner expects to receive them. “Active joints” are joints that the PathPlanner is going to directly control to achieve the desired end effector target. “Watched joints” are joints that the PathPlanner observes to plan motions, but will not actively control. These are assumed to remain constant when generating a path.

For example, the Franka robot has 9 degrees of freedom (DOFs): 7 revolute joints for controlling the arm, and 2 prismatic joints for controlling its gripper. The robot Articulation exposes all 9 degrees of freedom, but Lula RRT only cares about the 7 revolute joints when navigating the robot to a position target. It is not appropriate for RRT to take control of the gripper DOFs, because those DOFs may be controlled separately when performing a task such as pick-and-place. RRT.get_active_joints() returns the names of the 7 revolute joints in the Franka robot. RRT.get_watched_joints() returns an empty list because the joint states of the gripper DOFs are irrelevant when navigating the Franka’s hand to a target position. Every time RRT returns joint targets for the Franka, it is returning arrays of length 7. When RRT is passed an argument such as active_joint_positions, it is expecting a vector of 7 numbers that describe the joint positions of the Franka robot in the order specified by RRT.get_active_joints().

Inputs: World State

Omniverse Isaac Sim provides a set of objects in omni.isaac.core.objects that are intended to fully describe the simulated world. Currently, only object primitives such as sphere and cone are supported. More advanced objects defined by meshes and point clouds will be added in a future release. A PathPlanner has an adder for each type of object that exists in omni.isaac.core.objects e.g. PathPlanner.add_sphere(sphere: omni.isaac.core.objects.sphere.*). Objects in omni.isaac.core.objects wrap objects that exist on the USD stage. As objects move around on the stage, their location can be retrieved on each frame using the representative object from omni.isaac.core.objects. This means that once a PathPlanner has been passed an object, it can internally query the position of that object on the stage over time as needed. A PathPlanner queries all relevant obstacle positions from the omni.isaac.core.objects that have been passed in when PathPlanner.update_world() is called, and passes the information to its internal world state.

It is not required that a specific PathPlanner actually implement an adder for every type of object that exists in omni.isaac.core.objects. When a class inherits from PathPlanner, any unimplemented adder functions will throw warnings. For example, Lula RRT currently supports spheres, capsules, and cuboids in its world representation. In environments with cones, RRT will ignore the cone objects, and a warning will be printed for each cone object that gets added.

Inputs: Robot State

There are two methods for specifying robot state in a PathPlanner:

1. The base pose of the robot can be specified to a PathPlanner using PathPlanner.set_robot_base_pose(). If this function is never called, the policy implementation can make a reasonable assumption about the position of the robot. Lula RRT assumes that the robot is at the origin of the stage until it is told otherwise.

2. PathPlanner.compute_path(active_joint_positions, watched_joint_positions) expects robot joint positions and velocities to be passed in using the order specified by PathPlanner.get_active_joints() and PathPlanner.get_watched_joints().

Outputs: Path

PathPlanner.compute_path(active_joint_positions, watched_joint_positions) returns a set of configuration space waypoints that can be linearly interpolated to produce a collision free trajectory to reach a target-pose. The c-space configurations output by a PathPlanner will correspond only to the active joints returned by PathPlanner.get_active_joints(). The path output by a PathPlanner is difficult to use on its own; a linearly interpolated path will have sharp corners in c-space. But, a PathPlanner can be a useful component in generating a high-quality trajectory through difficult environments.

A helper class is provided with the PathPlanner interface to enable easy visualization of planned paths connected by simple linear interpolation in the Path Planner Visualizer class.

Path Planner Visualizer

The PathPlannerVisualizer class is provided to make it easy to visualize the path output by a PathPlanner. This class handles the mapping between controllable DOFs in the robot Articulation and the active joints considered by the PathPlanner.

The main function of the class is PathPlannerVisualizer.compute_plan_as_articulation_actions(max_c-space_dist). Calling this function queries the robot state from the robot Articulation, extracts and arranges the appropriate joints from the joint state in order to use the PathPlanner.compute_path() function, linearly interpolates the result, and then creates a valid list of ArticulationAction that can be passed to the robot Articulation one by one to produce the planned path. The max_c-space_dist function determines the density of the linear interpolation such that the L2 norm between any two c-space positions in the output is less than or equal to max_c-space_dist.