Project 1: Getting Familiar with OMPL


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Algorithmic Robotics
Project 1: Getting Familiar with OMPL
The documentation for OMPL can be found at
In this project, you will familiarize yourself with the basics of compiling and running programs that use the
Open Motion Planning Library (OMPL). You will run programs that execute basic motion planning queries
for a variety of systems, run motion planning queries for 2D and 3D robots in the GUI, and do
basic evaluation of sampling-based planners through OMPL’s benchmarking interface. Although there is no
code to write, it is expected that you install OMPL, inspect, compile and execute demo code, and evaluate
interesting planning scenarios using the GUI. Note: the third part of this project may take a while to run.
Please start early and plan accordingly.
We will assume in the project documentation that you are using the provided Docker setup. Adapt any
statements as necessary to fit how you have installed OMPL.
Project Exercises
0. Launching Docker environment
Install OMPL and Please refer to the document “Project 0” for how to do this. We highly
recommend using the Docker setup for this.
1. Running Example Programs
Compile and execute the example C++ programs in the Demos folder.
To do this, create a folder projects under the host directory that you mapped to the Docker container in the
docker-compose.yml file you modified in Project 0. Then simply extract the provided project1.tar.gz
into projects. After extracting the files, launch the Docker container using the following (hopefully, now
fimilar) command in the same directory as your docker-compose.yml file to launch the webserver (For
older Docker versions please add the hyphen and type docker-compose up instead):
1 docker compose up
Alternatively the following if you want to run the docker container in a non-desktop mode:
1 docker compose run — rm — entrypoint bash ompl
If you launched the VNC GUI, start a terminal inside the docker container. In the Docker terminal, use cd to
change directories to the project1 directory under /home/ompl/projects and type make to build. If you
cannot see the project1 directory in the container, verify that you’ve placed the extracted files in the correct
directory on the host machine.
Inspect the source code of the programs and the program output in the order below. In this exercise, we want
you to get a feel for how problems are constructed using OMPL as well as how difficult certain problems are.
Descriptions of the various demo programs can also be found at demos.html.
To run one of these compiled programs, open a terminal in the project1 folder, and type ./NameOfProgram.
First, you should run the following programs for geometric rigid body planning.
1. RigidBodyPlanning: Planning for a free-flying rigid body in 3D with no obstacles.
2. SE2RigidBodyPlanning: Planning for a free-flying rigid body in 2D. The robot and obstacles are
defined by triangle meshes. The environment is the same as 2D/Maze planar.cfg in
3. SE3RigidBodyPlanning: Planning for a free-flying rigid body in 3D. The robot and obstacles are
defined by triangle meshes. The environment is the same as 3D/cubicles.cfg in
Inspect Demos/RigidBodyPlanning.cpp to see how to setup and solve a simple motion planning problem.
Next, you should run the following programs with the specified arguments to plan for a car-like system with
increasing levels of model fidelity:
1. GeometricCarPlanning: Planning for a car-like system in 2D using Reeds-Shepp curves (these will
be discussed later in the class) with no obstacles. Run this program with ./GeometricCarPlanning
–easyplan for the empty environment.
2. RigidBodyPlanningWithControls: Planning for a car-like system using first-order controls (steering velocity and forward velocity) with no obstacles.
3. DynamicCarPlanning: Planning for a car-like system using second-order controls (steering acceleration and forward acceleration) with no obstacles.
2. Running the GUI
Open the GUI program, ompl app. In this exercise, we want you to play around with a variety of
environments and planners to get a feel for how each performs.
You will be testing the following planners in a variety of environments:
1. PRM: A roadmap-based planner. The roadmap is built over the entire space simultaneously based on
random sampling.
2. RRT: A tree-based planner. The tree is grown from the start configuration based on random sampling.
3. RRT-Connect: A bidirectional tree-based planner. This is a variant of RRT that grows a tree from both
the start and goal, and attempts to connect the two trees.
4. KPIECE: A tree-based planner. The tree is grown from the start, but is guided based on what parts of
the space have already been explored.
Each of these planners will be discussed further in the class. You are free to try out any of the planners
available in ompl app. Note that a few planners are asymptotically optimal planners—these typically end
with a “star”, e.g., RRT*. These planners will take all available time to optimize the path, and will not return
immediate even if a path is found. These kinds of planners will be discussed further on in the class.
Load the following configuration files (files with extension .cfg) into The configuration files
can be found in project1/Resources or /usr/local/share/ompl/resources. You can load problem
configurations by using the menu: File/Open Problem Configuration.
1. 2D/BugTrap planar.cfg: A simple planar “bug-trap” environment.
2. 2D/UniqueSolutionMaze.cfg: A planar maze-like environment with only one valid solution to the
3. 3D/Abstract.cfg: A 3D rigid body must fly through the environment.
4. 3D/Twistycool.cfg: A “narrow passage” in which a twisted part must navigate.
5. 3D/Home.cfg: A “piano movers” problem, where a table must be moved in a cluttered apartment.
You should also visualize the planner graph (the search structure built while planning) by changing the field
in the “Show:” drop-down at the bottom of the application. If you want to play around more with various
motion planning problems, please try out any of the problem configurations available in the resources folder
(/usr/local/share/ompl/resources), or to try and set up your own!
Documentation for using the GUI can be found at Note that you must
load a problem configuration before using the GUI. You can also use the webapp version of the
GUI program, available at
3. Benchmarking Motion Planners
Benchmarking sampling-based planners is critical to understanding how they perform against any metric.
Sampling-based planners are by nature random, and thus can have a wide range of performance purely based
on luck of the draw. In this exercise, you will understand how to benchmark OMPL planners and understand
their output.
Run the provided benchmarking program ./Benchmarking with each of the following options:
1. ./Benchmarking 0: Benchmarks the described planners 50 times each in the “home” environment.
2. ./Benchmarking 1: Benchmarks the described planners 50 times each in the “twistycool” environment.
3. ./Benchmarking 2: Benchmarks the described planners 50 times each in the “abstract” environment.
These may take a while to run. Please plan accordingly. After completing the benchmark, a set of *.log files
will be created in the directory. These contain the output of the benchmarking runs.
We will be using Planner Arena (, a website for interactive visualization of benchmarking data gathered from OMPL benchmarking. First, run the script “ompl benchmark
*.log” in order to generate a database of planning results, benchmark.db. On Planner Arena, switch to the
“Change Database” tab, and upload your generated database. You should now be visualizing the results of
your benchmarking.
Play around with the visualization, and view the various attributes of the planners. In particular, you will
have generated results for the planners you previously used:
1. PRM: With the default settings.
2. RRT: With a range of 5, 25, and 50.
3. RRT-Connect: With a range of 5, 25, and 50.
4. KPIECE: With the default settings.
Before you can make conclusions from your benchmarking data, you must verify that the data you have
is meaningful. If a planner fails to solve a problem, values in the benchmarking results can range from
informative to meaningless, as it is the product of an incomplete run of a planner. To verify that your
benchmarking results have solved the problem, you should inspect the following two properties:
1. First, you should observe the “solved” attribute. A “1” corresponds to successfully solving the planning
problem. A “0” corresponds to failing to solve the problem. Your planners should have mostly (more
than 90%) successes.
2. Next, you should observe the “approximate solution” attribute. A “1” corresponds to only approximately
solving the problem, but not successfully reaching the goal. A “0” corresponds to exactly solving
the problem, reaching the goal. Your planners should mostly (more than 90%) have exact solutions,
indicating they all solved the problem.
If your benchmarking results contain mostly failures, you will need to increase the allowed planning time of
the benchmark by editing the Demos/Benchmarking.cpp file, and rerunning the benchmark.
Finally, observe how each of these planners performs on the following metrics:
1. “time”: how much time was spent solving the problem?
2. “graph states”: how many states (roughly how much memory) are in the planner’s search graph?
3. “solution length”: how long is the solution path?
This project must be completed individually. Submissions are due Friday September 1st at 5:00pm via
Canvas. Submit a report, no more than 3 pages in PDF format, that addresses the following:
1. (5 points) Which method(s) did you use to install OMPL and How difficult was the setup
2. (10 points) Describe the perceived difficulty of each of the six demo programs you ran in Exercise
1. Please clearly state on what metric are you evaluating difficulty? According to your metric, which
demos seemed easier and/or harder to solve than others?
3. (15 points) Describe the perceived difficulty of the specified problem configurations you ran in Exercise
2. Did any configurations seem easier or harder to solve than others? On what metrics?
4. (15 points) Out of the specified planners you ran in Exercise 2, did any seem to perform better than
the others? In what problem configurations did the planner perform better? On what metric are you
evaluating planner performance? Elaborate.
5. (10 points) You might have noticed that in each planner has a set of parameters. For PRM,
there is “max nearest neighbors.” For RRT, RRT-Connect, and KPIECE, there is “range” and “goal bias.”
Try varying the values of these parameters:
(a) “max nearest neighbors”: from 8 to 100
(b) “range”: from 5 to 50. Note that if 0, OMPL attempts to guess what a “good” value for the range
should be.
(c) “goal bias”: from 0.01 to 0.95
Did you encounter any cases where changing a planner’s parameters improved performance on a
particular configuration in exercise 2? Explain.
6. (40 points) Observe the benchmarking output for the three problems from Exercise 3 on Planner Arena.
Which planners perform best in which environments? Explain why, and by what metrics. Attach plots
to your report as figures that support your claims. Claims made without supporting evidence will be
7. (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.


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