On the Design of a Heuristic based on Artificial Neural Networks for the Near Optimal Solving of the (N2–1)-puzzle

Vojtěch Cahlík, Pavel Surynek

Abstract

This paper addresses optimal and near-optimal solving of the (N2–1)-puzzle using the A* search algorithm. We develop a novel heuristic based on artificial neural networks (ANNs) called ANN-distance that attempts to estimate the minimum number of moves necessary to reach the goal configuration of the puzzle. With a well trained ANN-distance heuristic, whose inputs are just the positions of the pebbles, we are able to achieve better accuracy of predictions than with conventional heuristics such as those derived from the Manhattan distance or pattern database heuristics. Though we cannot guarantee admissibility of ANN-distance, an experimental evaluation on random 15-puzzles shows that in most cases ANN-distance calculates the true minimum distance from the goal, and furthermore, A* search with the ANN-distance heuristic usually finds an optimal solution or a solution that is very close to the optimum. Moreover, the underlying neural network in ANN-distance consumes much less memory than a comparable pattern database.

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