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Agents, KQML and Knowledge Sharing

April 1997

This file is a list of items added to the UMBC agents pages this month and is in maintained chronological order.
1999: July,
1998: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug,
1997: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec,
1996: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec,
1995: Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.

JavaWorld articles on mobile agents

JavaWorld had a two part article on mobile agents and aglets in their April and May issues:
  • Under the Hood: The architecture of aglets. "Find out about the inner workings of aglets, IBM Japan's Java-based autonomous software agent technology. Mobile agents have been around for many years, but they haven't yet entered the mainstream. This article takes a look at aglets, a mobile-agent technology built on top of Java. (3,400 words)
  • Solve real problems with aglets, a type of mobile agent. Part two of this series explains the significance of mobile agents, such as aglets -- IBM Japan's Java-based, autonomous software agent technology. Mobile agents have been around for many years, but they haven't yet entered the mainstream. Last month's "Under The Hood" described the inner workings of aglets, a mobile-agent technology built on top of Java. This article answers the question: Why would developers choose mobile agents over other software technologies, such as client/server, applets, and servlets, for solving real-world problems? (2,900 words)

Software Agents book

Software Agents, Edited by Jeffrey Bradshaw, Published by the AAAI Press/The MIT Press, 500 pp., $40.00 paper, ISBN 0-262-52234-9. "The book contains the most comprehensive and accessible collection of papers to date addressing these issues, authored by the leading researchers and developers of agent-based systems. Chapters by researchers from major universities (MIT, Stanford, University of Maryland, USC, University of Toronto), computing companies (Apple, Microsoft, and General Magic), and industrial research centers (AT&T Bell Labs, Boeing, EURISCO, Interval) not only summarize the state-of-the-art, but point the way in which standards and products incorporating agent technology are likely to evolve over the next few years. The wide variety of issues and approaches addressed make it an ideal resource for classroom use, as well as a reference for computing professionals. Because the book describes basic concepts and implementations without resorting to mathematical or overly technical terms, it will also be suitable for many non-computing professionals who are interested in a survey of this rapidly growing field."

Creating Personalities for Synthetic Actors Personality Agents

R.Trappl, P.Petta, Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Vienna, Austria (Eds.), Creating Personalities for Synthetic Actors, Towards Autonomous Personality Agents. Springer Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 1997 . VII, 251 pp., Softcover ISBN 3-540-62735-9. "Progress in computer animation has gained such a speed that, before long, computer-generated human faces and figures on screen will be indistinguishable from those of real humans. The potential both for scripted films and real-time interaction with users is enormous. However, in order to cope with this potential, these faces and figures must be guided by autonomous personality agents. This carefully arranged volume presents the state of the art in research and development in making synthetic actors more autonomous. The papers describe the different approaches and solutions developed by computer animation specialists, computer scientists, experts in AI, psychologists and philosophers, from leading laboratories world-wide. Finally, a bibliography comprising more than 200 entries enable further study."

Logical Approaches To Agent Modeling And Design

A symposium on Logical Approaches To Agent Modeling And Design will be held as part of ESSLLI'97, the Ninth European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information in Aix-en-Provence, France, August 18-22, 1997. Extended abstract are due by June 2, 1997.

Revised FIPA specifications

45 people attended the fifth meeting of FIPA (the Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents) in Reston, Virginia in mid-April and produced revised version of the seven parts of the technical specification: Comments are sought from both members and non-members and should be emailed to in word or html format by 16 June 1997. The next two meeting will be held in Cheju, Korea on 23-27 June and in Munich on 6-10 October, 1997.

OMG Mobile Agent Facility

In response to the OMG's Common Facility Task Force RFP3, a group of six companies (Crystaliz, GMD FOKUS, General Magic, IBM and The Open Group) are developing a Mobile Agent Facility (MAF) specification which focuses on interoperability between different agent systems. The MAF creates a uniform means for an agent to travel from one system to another, for a system operator to manage agents of different systems, and for clients to locate agents. The goal of the Mobile Agent Facility is to accelerate the use of mobile agents by maximizing interoperability between mobile agent systems while minimizing the impact of the standardized elements on any particular system. The fifth draft of the MAF specification was released on April 21 and is available in PDF (293K), PostScript (2MB), and FrameMaker (455K).

Odyssey is Telescript in Java

General Magic has reimplemented much of their Telescript language for mobile agents in Java and released a freely downloadable version as Odyssey, -- "an agent system implemented as a set of Java class libraries that provide support for developing distributed, mobile applications." Odyssey runs on any platform that supports JDK 1.1 and used its Remote Method Invocation (RMI), reflection mechanisms and the Java 1.1 AWT and I/O routines.

Digital Libraries

Digital libraries provide an active area for the application of many agent technologies. D-Lib Magazine is "a single site with monthly stories, commentary, and briefings and a collection of resources for digital library research." and is coordinated by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives for the NSF/DARPA/NASA Digital Libraries Initiative. It's objectives are to "stimulate the development of a common infrastructure for digital libraries and to coordinate research in those aspects that require consensus; To provide information exchange about all research and advanced development in digital libraries, particularly federally funded research within the High Performance Computing and Communications program; and To encourage and assist the transfer of these research efforts into the creation of the national digital library system." The next few months will see a number of conferences and workshops on digital libraries and related technology. They include:


ACM CIKM'97, the Sixth ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management will be held November 10-14, 1997 at the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The primary focus of the conference is on next generation information systems including their theoretical foundations, infrastructure and enabling technologies. Papers should be submitted by May 1, 1997.


FOMAS'97, the Second UK Workshop on Foundations of Multi-Agent Systems, will be held at the University of Warwick, 15-16 December 1997. Those interested in participating should submit by September 1st either an extended abstract describing relevant work to be presented at the workshop or a one-page description of research interests and current work.

5th FIPA meeting

The Fifth FIPA meeting will be held on 14-18 April 1997 in Reston, VA, USA at the Sheraton Reston Hotel. Information on the meeting agenda, the structure, and a description of tasks for the Reston meeting are available. See for more information.

KQML software

The original source of the KQML KAPI system at has been AWL for a while now. Charles Petrie ( reports that version 2.6 of KAPI can be ftp'ed from CDR.STANFORD.EDU in the pub/JATLite directory as kapi.2.6.d.tar.Z. An update patch is also available as kapi-update.tar.gz . See the KQML software page for pointers to other KQML tools.

OpenGroup's MOA project

The OpenGroup has a project on Mobile Objects and Agents (MOA) headed by Dejan Milojicic. Recent papers are:
  • Dejan S. Milojicic, Shai Guday and Richard Wheeler, "Old Wine in New Bottles, Applying OS Process Migration Technology to Mobile Agents", Technical Report, April 1997. (Compressed PS) and (PS).
  • Dejan S. Milojicic, "Alternatives to Mobile Code, The Case for Mobile Agents", Position Paper, presented at the NRC Workshop on Information System Trustworthiness, February 5, 1997. Position paper (Compressed PS) and (PS) and presentation (Compressed PS ) and (PS)
  • Dejan S. Milojicic, Don Bolinger, Mary Ellen Zurko and Murray S. Mazer, "Mobile Objects and Agents", Technical Report, The Open Group Research Institute, November 1996. (Compressed PS) and (PS).

50,000 agents can't be wrong

Edupage reports that "Coopers & Lybrand is using a computer modeling software program that uses 50,000 "agents" to predict which music CDs will hit the charts and climb to the top. The 30,000-line program contains information such as age, income level, domicile, gender and buying habits for each imaginary music consumer based on Census Bureau and market research data. After plugging in some parameters for each CD, such as how popular the group is already, the program spits out the answer -- yes, this one will sell, or no, that one's a loser. The program attempts to overcome the shortcomings of straight spreadsheet prognostication, incorporating some of the chaos inherent in human affairs: "There are junctures that are very difficult to describe in mathematical equation," says the project leader. "These are for very low-probability but potentially devastating events -- for example, the rate of takeoff in fads. This program can write these complex equations itself." (Forbes 7 Apr 97)"

Agent Development Environment (ADE)

Anshu Mehra reports that the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences's (NCMS) 'Shop Floor Agent' Project team (GM, AMP, Gensym Corp, and ITI) has built an Agent Development Environment (ADE) toolkit. using Gensym's G2 language. ADE can be used for developing intelligent distributed agents applications, including shop floor scheduling, supply-chain management, and process control. Agents in ADE communicate with each other by sending message objects, and the environment resolves the addressing issues. The behavior of an agent in ADE is described using Grafcets. ADE can be used both in simulation as well as in the deployment environment. ADE provides yellow and whites page service, and supports mobile agents. Various Debugging/Tracing and Visual Aids are provided in ADE. GM NAO research lab is using ADE for simulation and deployment of a dynamic/adaptive shopfloor scheduling system. AMP is using ADE for adaptive multivariate control and for self-configuring modular production facilities. Contact Tony Haynes ( for more information about the project and Anshu Mehra (Gensym Corporation, 125 Cambridge Park Dr., Cambridge MA 02140.617-588-3356, Fax: 617-547-1962, for more information about ADE.

Workshop on Open Intelligent Agent Platforms

The 2nd Design Workshop on Open Intelligent Agent Platforms that is now the activity of the Agent Society's Agent Interop Working Group will be held in conjunction with PAAM'97 at London, Thursday, 24 April 1997. It will meet in the Weatherhead Room of Westminster Central Hall opposite Westminster Abbey Cathedral courtesy of the PAAM'97 organizers. An initial draft agenda/schedule and an initial list of draft documents are available. Although there is no charge, registration is requested. Email to the program committee for the meeting can be sent to .


ObjectSpace, Inc., a Dallas-based software company, has released a beta version of Voyager a "platform for agent-enhanced distributed computing in Java." Voyager is described as "the world's first 100% Java agent-enhanced Object Request Broker (ORB). Voyager allows Java programmers to quickly and easily create sophisticated network applications using both traditional and agent-enhanced distributed programming techniques."


Agent Development Support for Tcl, R. Scott Cost, Tim Finin, Jeegar Lakhani, Ethan Miller, Charles Nicholas and Ian Soboroff. Tcl/Tk is an attractive language for the design of intelligent agents because it allows the quick construction of prototypes and user interfaces; new scripts can easily be bound at runtime to respond to events; and execution state is encapsulated by the interpreter, which helps in agent migration. However, a system of intelligent agents must share a common language for communicating requests and knowledge. We have integrated KQML (Knowledge Query Manipulation Language), one such standard language, into Tcl/Tk. The resulting system, called TKQML, provides several benefits to those building intelligent agent systems. First, TKQML allows easy integration of existing tools which have Tcl/Tk interfaces with an agent system by using Tcl to move information between KQML and the application. Second, TKQML is an excellent language with which to build agents, allowing on-the-fly specification of message handlers and construction of graphical interfaces. This paper describes the implementation of TKQML, and discusses its use in our intelligent agent system for information retrieval.

Intel's Smart News Reader

Intel's Smart News Reader "uses agent-based information evaluation technology to sort and rank content based on dynamic user feedback." As newsgroup articles are being read, one can express preferences to "train" the news reader (J=interested, L=disinterested and K=neutral). This information is then used to rank new articles and threads.

Intel's Selection Recognition Agent

Intel's Selection Recognition Agent is an experimental software application that dynamically generates hyperlinks between information on your desktop and relevant applications and WWW sites. When text is highlighted or copied to the clipboard, the Selection Recognition Agent attempts to recognize objects such as email addresses, URLs or keywords in the text and enable relevant operations. e.g,: date Recognizer to launch calendaring program; URL Recognizer to view URLs and send mail; etc. 4/8/97
Mitsubishi Electric Information Technology Center America announces the alpha release of its advanced Java mobile agent product. Concordia provides a full-featured framework for developing and managing network-efficient mobile agent applications. Concordia incorporates the following features: agent and server security; reliable transmission of agents across networks; persistence of agent state; transparent restart of agent and Concordia servers after machine failures; support for disconnected computing; a unique and flexible framework for multi-agent collaboration; and an extensive suite of system administration tools. Visit the Concordia web page to obtain further details and to request evaluation copies. 4/4/97

An agent fishmarket

Pablo Noriega ( reports that IIIA (Barcelona, Spain), the University of Bath (UK) and Naples Instituto di Cibernetica have found success in using the traditional fish market as a metaphor for agent-mediated "institutions". The focus of interest has been the design and deployment of agent-based environments where many agents interact, but all agent interactions are "accountable"; that is, where agents' behavior can effectively be made to comply with explicit institutional conventions (a significant trust-building factor for electronic commerce). A fully working auction house, FM96.5 has been developed in Java. In it, buyer and seller agents of arbitrary complexity --including humans-- can participate in a downward-bidding auction under realistic conditions of vivacity, fairness and auditability that are explicit and enforceable. On top of that environment, a test-bed and rudimentary trading agents have also been developed. A guided tour through FM96.5, as well as group publications and related material are available at the Fishmarket Project Webpage. 4/4/97

Agents for Remote Action

Ara ("Agents for Remote Action") is a platform for the portable and secure execution of mobile agents currently under development at the University of Kaiserslautern. Mobile agents in this sense are programs with the ability to change their host machine during execution while preserving their internal state. This enables them to handle interactions locally which otherwise had to be performed remotely. Ara's specific aim in comparison to similar platforms is to provide full mobile agent functionality while retaining as much as possible of established programming models and languages. Various interpreted programming languages can be adapted to Ara (so far, Tcl and C/C++ have been adapted; Java will come soon), making them usable for mobile agent programming. Ara is intended as a general system platform on top of which specific applications such as information mining, mobile device support, active documents, DAI etc. can be built. Version 1.0 alpha of the Ara platform (for Solaris, Linux and SunOS) has been released free for non-commercial purposes, including the complete source code, extensive documentation, and a number of example agents. 4/2/97


Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up, by Joshua M. Epstein and Robert Axtell, Brooking Institute/MIT Press, October 1996, 208 pages Cloth: ISBN 0-262-05053-6 -- $39.95, Paper: ISBN 0-262-55025-3 -- $18.95, CD-ROM -- $59.95.

"Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science From the Bottom Up is an outgrowth of the 2050 Project, a collaborative effort of Brookings, The Santa Fe Institute, and The World Resources Institute. The aim of 2050 (initially funded by the MacArthur Foundation) has been to identify conditions for sustainable development on a worldwide scale. An important component of this project is to understand the interactions among such global social processes as population growth, resource use, migration, economic development, and patterns of conflict, governance, political empowerment, and equity.

Traditional social science does not offer powerful techniques for the analysis of such complex interdisciplinary questions. This Brookings study departs radically from tradition, employing new techniques from computer science, artificial life, autonomous agents, evolutionary programming, to "grow" fundamental social structures and dynamics. The book/CD describes a particular artificial society known as Sugarscape." See The Gods of Sugarscape - Digital sex, migration, trade, and war on the social science frontier, Ivars Peterson, Science News, November 96, for more information. 4/1/97

Your Interactive Pet Dinosaur

Your Interactive Pet Dinosaur by Viacom New Media is a virtual pet dinosaur that lives in your wintel computer. You hatch the dinosaur from an egg, then raise it from a baby to a full-grown adult. The dinosaur needs your attention to grow up successfully. You must feed it, play with it, and keep it happy. You can teach it to play games and other behaviors, and the dinosaur will remember them. 4/1/97

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