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Defining software agents

Agents are software artifacts that act on behalf of users. It is believed that they will be a major factor in overcoming information overload in the future by carrying out tasks in cyberspace on behalf of users. One of the best articles defining agents and offering a taxonomy is "Is is an Agent or just a Program?" by Atan Franklin and Art Graesser.

URL: http://www.msci.memphis.edu/~franklin/AgentProg.html

Agent resources

URL: http://www.sics.se/isl/abc/survey.html

Agent standards

What's an agent? Crucial notions

A paper entitled: "What's an Agent Anyway? A sociological case study" by Leonard Foner can be found at his site. To show how good a paper it is, here is a short excerpt:

By this metric, for example, a hammer is not an agent - I don't have a discourse with my hammer! Neither is a Lisp garbage collector, even though it takes spontaneous action to keep my computational environment clean, nor is an automatic transmission in a car; both are autonomous and relatively spontaneous, but it can hardly be said that I have much of a discourse with them.

Booking a flight through a human travel agent, in my case, is only partially a discourse: since I don't have direct access to the actual booking computer, I have no other option. And since I do not have a regular travel agent who knows me, every travel agent is a new experience (albeit, one that travel agencies try to standardize a bit, so as to align everyone's expectations). Now, in one respect, the conversational interchange is a discourse, because, for the duration of the task at hand (booking that one flight), there is a two-way communication of desires and capabilities. However, viewed in a larger context, there is no discourse that 'teaches' the travel agent what my preferences are on when I like to travel, on which airline, and so forth. Viewed this way, a 'travel agent' is nothing more than a somewhat more 'user-friendly' interface to the flight reservation data system.

URL: http://foner.www.media.mit.edu/people/foner/Julia/Julia.html

Modelling consumer behaviour

A thesis entitled "Modelling consumer behaviour", published on the web in .pdf format describes a meta-model of behaviour, which integrates a number of behavioural theories.

This meta-model is being used to develop a multi-agent simulation of consumer behaviour, the so-called "consumat approach". The individual agents are equipped with a number of needs (2, 3 or 4), have different abilities, and may choose between different opportunities to satisfy their needs.

An essential feature of the consumat approach is that the agents may employ 4 types of decision strategies: deliberation (rational actor), social comparison, repetition (habitual behaviour) and imitation, depending on their uncertainty and satisfaction. News, new applications and work in progress concerning the consumat approach can be found at the consumat site.

URL: thesis http://docserver.ub.rug.nl/eldoc/dis/ppsw/w.jager/
URL: consumat http://go.to/consumats/

Domain Specific Languages

In a paper entitled: "Domain Specific Languages for ad hoc Distributed Applications", Matthew Fuchs postulates a framework to enable truly "ad hoc cooperative transactions on the Internet, combining human and computational entities together". His paper is based on the premise that the current framework makes a fundamental distinction between human agents (who use HTML) and computational agents, which use CORBA or COM. He proposes Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) as a means to allow all kinds of agents to "speak the same language". The approach adopts ideas (and syntax) from SGML/XML, especially the strict separation of syntax and semantics, so each agent in a collaboration is capable of applying a behavioral semantics appropriate to its role (buyer, seller, editor).

URL: http://cs.nyu.edu/phd_students/fuchs/dsl.html

Agent Markup Language Programme

The DARPA Agent Markup Language (DAML) Programme began in the US on 14 August, 2000. The goal of the DAML effort is to develop a language and tools to facilitate the concept of the semantic web through the creation of "technologies that will enable software agents to dynamically identify and understand information sources, and to provide interoperability between agents in a semantic manner".

This goal will be pursued by a research plan that includes the following six tasks:

Find out more from the public portal below.

URL: http://www.daml.org/

Adaptive web learning guides

Extempo has received an award of around US$ 2 million from the US Department of Commerce Advanced Technology Program (ATP) for research and development of technology for its Web Learning Guides concept. Web Learning Guides are apparently smart animated characters who "assist learners in web-based learning environments". The research will concentrate on how such technology advances will serve the growing markets for web-based learning systems, including corporate training, secondary and higher education, and independent life-long learning.

Extempo is hoping that its "Web Learning Guides will appear as animated characters who converse with learners one-on-one in natural language, manipulate web content, and adapt their assistance to the learner's needs. They will maintain records of the learner's achievement and provide feedback and encouragement". They will also be developing Guide Authoring Tools to enable educators to author both the subject matter contents and the teaching styles of individual Web Learning Guides. Extempo's proprietary Imp Character Technology will provide the foundation for this project.

This project is one of 37 industrial research projects for cooperative support by NISTs Advanced Technology Program (ATP) 1999 competition, which attracted over 400 proposals. The Advanced Technology Program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration.

The ATP provides "cost-shared funding to industry for high-risk R&D projects with the potential to spark important, broad-based economic benefits for the US. ATP support significantly accelerates potentially important R&D projects. These are projects that industry on its own could not fully support because of the technical risks involved, and where timing is critical to eventual economic success in the highly competitive global market".

URL: ATP http://www.atp.nist.gov/atp/overview.htm
URL: ATP's 1999 competition http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/g99-192.htm
URL: Adaptive web learning guides proposal http://www.atp.nist.gov/www/comps/briefs/99013055.htm
URL: Extempo http://www.extempo.com/

Agent-based Computational Economics

The September 2000 News Notes on Agent-based Computational Economics (ACE) have been published online by the Department of Economics, Iowa State University. ACE is "the computational study of economies modelled as evolving systems of autonomous interacting agents".

The news notes contain news items on books, journal announcements, software, research group sites, workshops and meetings, and program, course, and position announcements of possible interest to ACE researchers.  Items of more permanent interest are incorporated into the relevant resource sites linked to the main ACE web site.

URL: News Notes http://www.econ.iastate.edu/tesfatsi/ace0900.htm
URL: ACE http://www.econ.iastate.edu/tesfatsi/ace.htm

General resources

Mereware educational robotics resources is a site developed to provide "an educational-tech resource for robotic research, artificial intelligence and more". The site features robotics news and also a section which features links to the free web tools used for building the site.

URL: http://www.mereware.com/

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Last up-dated: 16 February 2024

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