Engines can be used to reason about solutions produced by a goal
through backtracking. In this scenario we create an engine with the goal
we wish to backtrack over and we enumerate all its solution using engine_next/2.
This usage scenario competes with the all solution predicates (findall/3, bagof/3,
etc.) and the predicates from library
library(aggregate). Below we implement findall/3
findall(Templ, Goal, List) :- setup_call_cleanup( engine_create(Templ, Goal, E), get_answers(E, List), engine_destroy(E)). get_answers(E, [H|T]) :- engine_next(E, H), !, get_answers(E, T). get_answers(_, ).
The above is not a particularly attractive alternative for the built-in findall/3. It is mostly slower due to time required to create and destroy the engine as well as the (currently189The current implementation of engines is built on top of primitives that are not optimal for the engine use case. There is considerable opportunity to reduce the overhead.) higher overhead of copying terms between engines than the overhead required by the dedicated representation used by findall/3.
It gets more interesting if we wish to combine answers from multiple backtracking predicates. Assume we have two predicates that, on backtracking, return ordered solutions and we wish to merge the two answer streams into a single ordered stream of answers. The solution in classical Prolog is below. It collects both answer sets, merges them using ordered set merging and extract the answers. The code is clean and short, but it doesn't produce any answers before both generators are fully enumerated and it uses memory that is proportional to the combined set of answers.
:- meta_predicate merge(?,0, ?,0, -). merge_answers(T1,G1, T2,G2, A) :- findall(T1, G1, L1), findall(T2, G2, L2), ord_union(L1, L2, Ordered), member(A, Ordered).
We can achieve the same using engines. We create two engines to generate the solutions to both our generators. Now, we can ask both for an answer, put the smallest in the answer set and ask the engine that created the smallest for its next answer, etc. This way we can create an ordered list of answers as above, but now without creating intermediate lists. We can avoid creating the intermediate list by introducing a third engine that controls the two generators and yields the answers rather than putting them in a list. This is a general example of turning a predicate that builds a set of terms into a non-deterministic predicate that produces the results on backtracking. The full code is below. Merging the answers of two generators, each generating a set of 10,000 integers is currently about 20% slower than the code above, but the engine-based solution runs in constant space and generates the first solution immediately after both our generators have produced their first solution.
:- meta_predicate merge(?,0, ?,0, -). merge(T1,G1, T2,G2, A) :- engine_create(A, merge(T1,G1, T2,G2), E), repeat, ( engine_next(E, A) -> true ; !, fail ). merge(T1,G1, T2,G2) :- engine_create(T1, G1, E1), engine_create(T2, G2, E2), ( engine_next(E1, S1) -> ( engine_next(E2, S2) -> order_solutions(S1, S2, E1, E2) ; yield_remaining(S1, E1) ) ; engine_next(E2, S2), yield_remaining(S2, E2) ). order_solutions(S1, S2, E1, E2) :- !, ( S1 @=< S2 -> engine_yield(S1), ( engine_next(E1, S11) -> order_solutions(S11, S2, E1, E2) ; yield_remaining(S2, E2) ) ; engine_yield(S2), ( engine_next(E2, S21) -> order_solutions(S1, S21, E1, E2) ; yield_remaining(S1, E1) ) ). yield_remaining(S, E) :- engine_yield(S), engine_next(E, S1), yield_remaining(S1, E).