L. J. Guibas, C. Holleman, and L. E. Kavraki, “A Probabilistic Roadmap Planner for Flexible Objects with a Workspace Medial-Axis Based Sampling Approach,” in Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Kyongju, Korea, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 254–260.
Probabilistic roadmap planners have been used with success to plan paths for flexible objects such as metallic plates or plastic flexible pipes. This paper improves the performance of these planners by using the medial axis of the workspace to guide the random sampling. At a preprocessing stage, the medial axis of the workspace is computed using a recent efficient algorithm. Then the flexible object is fitted at random points along the medial axis. The energy of all generated configurations is minimized and the planner proceeds to connect them with low-energy quasi-static paths in a roadmap that captures the connectivity of the free space. Given an initial and a final configuration, the planner connects these to the roadmap and searches the roadmap for a path. Our experimental results show that the new sampling scheme is successful in identifying critical deformations of the object along solution paths which results in a significant reduction of the computation time. Our work on planning for flexible objects has applications in industrial settings, virtual reality environments, and medicine.