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August 1996

This file is a list of items added to the UMBC agents pages this month and is in maintained chronological order. Past months: July 1996, June 1996, May 1996, April 1996, March 1996, February 1996, January 1996, December 1995, November 1995, October 1995, September 1995, August 1995 and before.


The LifestyleFinder agent, newly released from Andersen Consulting's Agents research group, recommends URLs to users based on their overall lifestyles. Unlike most URL-recommending agents, that reason from first principles on a large amount of information for each user, LifestyleFinder uses a much smaller information as an index into a demographic database. The current prototype will measure the effectiveness of the approach for large numbers of users. Several short "thought-piece" articles are available discussing the agent's implications, and a technical paper is in preparation. 8/31/96

Mobile Agents 97

First International Workshop on Mobile Agents 97 (MA'97), Berlin, Germany, April 7 - 8, 1997, in conjunction with 3rd International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (ISADS 97). Submitted paper deadline: November 30th, 1996. 8/31/96

Trusting Your Assistant

Trusting Your Assistant, by Robert J. Hall, AT&T Labs Research, To appear in Proc. 11th Knowledge-based Software Engineering Conference (KBSE-96). Abstract: The assistant interface metaphor has the potential to shield the human user from low-level, task-specific details, while allowing the automation of the many idiosyncratic, mundane tasks falling between the capabilities of commercial software packages. However, a user will not willingly put resources (money, privacy, information) at risk unless the assistant can be trusted to carry out the task in accord with the user's goals and priorities. This risk is significant, because assistant behaviors, being idiosyncratic and highly customized, will not be as well supported or documented as is commercial software. This paper describes a solution to this problem, allowing the assistant to safely execute partially trusted behaviors and to interactively increase the user's trust in the behavior so that more of the steps can be carried out autonomously. The approach is independent of how the behavior was acquired and is based on incremental formal validation using an explicit representation of trust. 8/31/96

Inference's iFind

Inference Corporation has developed iFind, an "Internet search tool that calls out in parallel all the best search engines on the internet, merges the results, removes redundancies, clusters the hits into neat understandable groupings, and returns it all to you faster than you can say "nothing but net"...". 8/31/96

Mediated architecture for healthcare enterprises

An Information Mediator Network for Tasks in Dynamic Environments , Ramesh Patil, Weixiong Zhang and Wei-Min Shen, USC Information Sciences Institute. Abstract: Coordination of activities among information workers and services, tracking and managing activities, and intelligent distribution of information are essential to the efficient operation of any large enterprise. This is particularly important in the health-care domain, where many different organizations must cooperate to provide patient care reliably in a dynamically changing environment. In this paper we present a distributed system that supports cooperative problem solving, activity management, and intelligent delivery of information in dynamic and unreliable environments. The system consists of a network of task/context managers (TCMs). Each TCM manages a group of related agents. It maintains up-to-date information on availability, operational status, and activities of participating agents, and it acts as a mediator between service requesters and service providers. In addition, the TCM acts as a representative for its agents with other TCMs allowing different groups of agents to collaborate with one anothers. This paper describes the system architecture, its implementation and capabilities including matchmaking, plan monitoring and failure recovery. Our system has been used in prehospital emergency patient information management applications. 8/31/96


Apple's ProjectX is a technology demonstration based on Meta Content Format (MCF) a language for representing meta information about content in any information space. ProjectX is supports what Apple calls "2-and-a-half dimensional" cruising through complex databases. Using an Apple technology called "metacontent format," Project X analyzes documents and figures out how to categorize them, then displays the results in what appear to be layers of bubbles on the screen. Each bubble is labeled with a topic, and each layer is more specific than the one above. Looking at a "science" bubble, for example, users might see "chemistry" and "biology" bubbles behind it. Pushing through the science bubble, the chemistry and biology bubble move toward the sides of the screen, showing more bubbles underneath. "Organic chemistry" and "Cell biology" might be at opposite sides of the screen, with "biochemistry" in the middle. Plug-ins for CyberDog, Netscape and Internet Explorer for both Macs and Win95/NT are available from the ProjectX web page. 8/31/96

Meta-Content Format

Apple's Meta-Content Format (MCF), the interchange format used by Project X, is a simple representation language with roots in CYC and KIF intended to represent information about the content of web pages, gopher and ftp files, desktop files, email and structured (i.e., relational and object oriented) databases, etc. MCF files contain descriptions of meta-content objects (MCO or "units") which consist of a a unit identifier and slot which identify generalizations and specializations. 8/31/96

MAS course at QMW

Graem A. Ringwood & Dr Matthew Huntbach of Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, have developed a course on Multi-Agent Systems . The course objective is to enable he student to design and build a multi-agent system as a third semester project. Description: "Conventional AI systems such, as expert systems, are closed systems in that they make decisions with minimal external input. These systems fail miserably when presented with problems outside their limited field of expertise. The traditional answer from AI is to propose new forms of knowledge representation and/or to accumulate vast quantities of common sense knowledge in one system. The new frontier Multi-agent Systems (MAS), proposes an open systems approach by building societies of agents (herds of robots) for which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Whereas conventional AI draws its inspiration from neurophysiology, psychology and mathematical logic, MAS has sociology, anthropology, economics, operations research, control theory, systems science and management science as additional metaphors. ... The course is divided into two parts, micro and macro-theories. The first part of the course focuses on micro-systems: the architecture of an individual agent and how it makes decisions. This part of the course will draw heavily on the essential text. This text provides good support for those with little background in AI. The second part of the course is about macro-systems, where the concern is interagent dynamics. This part of the course will work from the research papers cited below." 8/30/96

Ontologies for business cards

Versit Technology has developed what we might think of as an ontology for "business cards" -- vCard. vCard is part of Versit's Personal Data Interchange. 8/22/96

Ontologies for calendars and scheduling

Creative Networks, Inc., an independent industry consulting and research firm, has gathered a group of vendors to establish IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) standards for calendaring and scheduling. Some proposals being studied include the Internet Calendar Access Protocol (Lotus Development and Clear Blue Networks), the Calendar Interchange Protocol (CIP) , the Simple Scheduling Transport Protocol (SSTP) (ON Technology), and vCalendar (Versit Consortium). Such a standard would allow users to schedule meetings with anyone, no matter what scheduling system they use and to allow user agents to access scheduling data that is stored in scheduling systems. 8/22/96

An ontology for belief networks

The Bayesian Network Interchange Format is a standard for representing belif networks designedwith the following goals in mind: (1) to ensure interoperability of Bayesian network tools; (2) allow for inter-group sharing of knowledge encoded as Bayesian networks; and (3) to facilitate comparison of research results on standard networks. Microsoft's Decision Theory Group has a Windows application which allows the creation, assessment and evaluation of Bayesian belief networks expressed in BNIF. 8/22/96

Agent humor

Can Alex Doonesbury's agent save her father's relationship? Big fish, little fish, swimming in the water. 8/22/96


A new and improved diffAgent server has been released which includes additional mediators. "A diffAgent watches information sources available via the web and e-mails you when it detects changes. In particular, it can:
  • Watch your FedEx package for you and e-mail you when it sees the words "Package has been Delivered!" (make a package watcher agent)
  • Monitor a list of query results at a search service like Altavista to see when new pages on your topic appear (make a web topic watcher agent)
  • Keep track of news articles on a topic and mail you when it finds new ones (make a news topic watcher agent)
  • Mail you when your name appears in a list of papers at an electronic archive (make a web page watcher agent)
  • Tell you when the word "snow" appears on the Pittsburgh weather page (make a web page watcher agent)

Agents bibliography

Thomas Steiner of the University of Lausanne ( maintains a bibliography of agent related references. 8/15/96

Project Aristotle

Project Aristotle is a "clearinghouse for projects and research devoted to the automated categorization of Web resources." It focuses on projects and prototypes that have applied filtering systems, text extraction and/or categorization, or agents, robots or machine learning to the categorization of Web resources rather than general discussions of these approaches or technologies. 8/14/86

AgentNews 1.12

AgentNews Webletter 1.12 was released. 8/12/96

Leveraging Cyberspace

The First Annual Conference on Leveraging Cyberspace, October 8 and 9, 1996, XEROX Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Palo Alto, California. Sponsored by the White House National Economic Council, Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. "The Internet is becoming a distributed, massively parallel supercomputer that connects people, processors, information repositories, and mobile code. People with shared interests are using the Internet to solve problems, accomplish tasks, and create resources that would be well beyond the reach of any one person or organization. The Internet is being used to create virtual libraries, factor large numbers, organize massive volunteer efforts, and filter information in a collaborative fashion. The ability to leverage the efforts of large numbers of networked users has important economic, social, and political consequences. This conference is designed to explore this phenomenon from both a technical and social science perspective." 8/12/96

Web Search using Data Fusion

The Fusion system sends your web query to six different search engines in parallel: AltaVista, Excite, InfoSeek, Lycos, OpenText and WebCrawler. The results returned are then combined using the concepts of data fusion, thus improving the overall quality of the search. Fusion is written entirely in Java and was developed by Francis Crimmins ( of Dublin City University. 8/12/96

Character agents and electronic communities

Michael Powers ( maintains web pages on interactive characters and electronic communities. The focus is mostly on applications to the arts and entertainment -- "Interactivity is about relationship with authored characters. Some of these characters have recognizable bodies that are cel animated, photo-realistic, or rendered. Many others, such as the structure of these Web pages do not have an easily recognizable "body" yet they carry a relationship with a narrator-author, much like the narrative voice of a novel. This experience is the mediation of a relationship between author and participant through electronic structures, some crude, others polished. The author or authoring group always creates an interactive experience that engages the participant in an emotionally laden activity - whether high drama or mechanistic interaction. The potential to draw out a dramatic and entertaining experience lies in the development of sophisticated interactive engagement with responsive characters." 8/12/96

CMU papers

Some recent papers from CMU include:
  • Katia Sycara, Keith Decker, Anandeep Pannu, Mike Williamson, and Dajun Zeng. Distributed Intelligent Agents. Submitted to IEEE Expert, July, 1996.
  • Keith Decker, Anandeep Pannu, Katia Sycara, and Mike Williamson. Designing Behaviors for Information Agents. Submitted to First International Conference on Autonomous Agents (AGENTS-97), July, 1996.
  • Keith Decker, Mike Williamson, and Katia Sycara. Matchmaking and Brokering. To appear in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Multi-Agent Systems (ICMAS-96), 1996.


First International Conference on Autonomous Agents, Marina del Rey, February 5-8, 1997. Agents'97 and the USC/Information Sciences Institute will host an evening of peer-reviewed software demonstrations showing early implementations of novel autonomous agents. Commercial products are eligible, but sales and marketing activities are not appropriate. All demos will be given in parallel in an informal setting. See the web page for submission information. 8/12/96

Financial portfolio management

WARREN: Intelligent Agents for Financial Portfolio Management is a CMU project that is applying a the Retsina agent framework to portfolio management. This is the task of providing an integrated financial picture for managing an investment portfolio over time, using the information resources already available over the Internet. 8/12/96

Verteilte KI

This is an overview of the organization and activities of the German DAI community. The organizational framework is the Fachgruppe 1.1.6 "Verteilte KI" of the Gesellschaft fuer Informatik, a special interest group of the German computer science association. Its nucleus was a handful of interested people who in 1990 initiated a working group that organized workshops, tutorials, and overview articles in selected publications.

Die Agenten Forschung in Deutschland

The German Agent Page gives an overview on the "state-of-the-art" of research on mobile agents in Germany.



The KIMSAC project (Kiosk-based Integrated Multimedia Service Access for Citizens) uses a "personal service assistant" to mediate between users and information services. It is being carried out by the KIMSAC Consortium and is sponsored by RACE, Research and Technology Development in Advanced Communication technologies in Europe. Agent technology under consideration includes KQML and KIF. 8/11/96

FIPA to consider agent standards

FIPA, the Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents, will holding its third meeting in Tokyo, Japan, hosted by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) at their Science and Technical Research Laboratories on 7 to 11 October 1996. At this meeting, FIPA will accept proposals for standards for a variety of technologies relevant for physical and software agents. 8/10/96


Erik Mueller ( has a page on e-languages for "resources, information, and ideas on e-languages, or languages used by software agents to communicate with each other on the net." including his own ThoughtTreasure.8/10/96

CommerceNet SIG meeting

CommerceNet is a large government and industry sponsored project aimed at exploring and developing the technology and infrastructure for Internet-based electronic commerce. CommerceNet is broadening its outreach by moving its monthly SIG meetings to a different host city each month. The next meeting will be held on August 20-21 in Washington, D.C. and will be open to the public. The first day of these SIG meetings will be broadcast live over the Internet. A complete agenda, logistics, registration, and all other information is available on the CommerceNet web page.8/10/96

General Magic's Tabriz

General Magic announced and is shipping two Telescript-based products in a new line of Tabriz software for the web which "transform passive networks and applications into active, secure processes for competitive advantage." Tabriz AgentWare is general-purpose software that enables the creation and interaction of "processes" that can occur and interact with one another, even while users requesting the processes aren't actively connected to a network. Processes can be requests for information, authorization and verification and other tasks that are part of a larger goal. The technologies used to build AgentWare result in processes that are active, secure and persistent across the Internet, the World Wide Web and corporate intranets-processes that can be used to build a new, superior class of applications. Tabriz Agent Tools is an integrated, graphical set of tools for creating, debugging and maintaining Tabriz applications. Tabriz Agent Tools is available now as a UNIX System application; a beta release of a version for Windows NT is expected to ship this Autumn. Tabriz Agent Tools provides a source-code editor, a class browser, a source-level debugger and features for managing the components used to build Tabriz applications.8/10/96

Dataviz's Web Buddy is a collection of Internet utilities that helps Netscape and other web browsers to easily save, collect, convert, organize and share all of information they find on the Web. It will also automate the collection of web pages or entire sites allowing users to "surf the web" at their convenience and even while they are not connected. A beta version is available initially for Windows 95 and Macintosh. 8/10/96

Foundations of DAI

Foundations of Distributed Artificial Intelligence, Greg O'Hare and Nick Jennings (Ed.), Sixth-Generation Computer Technology Series, John Wiley & Sons. The book includes 21 papers dived into four sections -- formulative readings; cooperation, coordination and agency; DAI frameworks and their applications; related disciplines, and includes an appendix on DAI references and resources. 8/10/96


Eighth European Workshop on Modelling Autonomous Agents in a Multi-Agent World, May 13-16, 1997, Ronneby, Sweden. Papers due December 13, 1996. 8/10/96

AOP in Power Distribution Automation

Staffan Haegg and Fredrik Ygge, Agent-Oriented Programming in Power Distribution Automation - An Architecture, a Language, and their Applicability, Ph.L. thesis, Lund University, Sweden, 1995. Abstract: "Power Distribution Automation and Demand Side Management (DA/DSM) are the concepts of automating power distribution and providing customer services. ... In the thesis, we identify the need for system integration, high-level cooperation protocols (e.g., protocols for negotiation), powerful and flexible models of interaction, minimizing of communication needs, and a robust system behavior when computing is heavily distributed. We describe how Agent-Oriented Programming (AOP) can be used to address the problems listed above. Existing multi-agent system (MAS) contributions are examined, and our agent architecture (DA-SoC) and our agent language (DAAL) are presented and analyzed. A DA-SoC agent is procedural and goal-driven, and it holds a world model in declarative form. It has a programmable model of interaction that allows a programmer to tailor its interactive behavior. Agent interaction in DA-SoC is tightly connected to the agent execution, which leads to the concept of semantic addressing and the notion of DA-SoC as a computational model for distributed computing. Agents can be given specific roles in a society, and joint goals and joint action can be realized. ...". 8/10/96
Cycorp has made a beta version of the Cyc Upper Ontology available via the web. This includes approximately 3000 of Cyc's highest concepts with the hierarchical links between them. It includes several hundred of Cyc's thousands of semantic relations, each with its argument-types (type signature) but does not include the deductive rules and constraints. Cycorp offers the Cyc Upper Ontology as a common grounding for applications such as natural language understanding and generation; semantic database integration, consistency-checking, and mining; semantic information retrieval; ontology-constrained simulation; user modeling and knowledge sharing. 8/10/96

Adaptive Individuals in Evolving Populations: Models and Algorithms

Adaptive Individuals in Evolving Populations: Models and Algorithms, edited by Richard K. Belew and Melanie Mitchell, Proceedings Volume XXVI, Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1996. "A meeting held at the Santa Fe Institute during the summer of 1993 brought together a small group of biologists, psychologists, and computer scientists with shared interests in questions such as these. This volume consists of approximately two dozen papers that explore interacting adaptive systems from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives. About half the articles are classic, seminal references on the subject, ranging from biologists like Lamarck and Waddington to psychologists like Piaget and Skinner. The other papers represent new work by the workshop participants. The role played by mathematical and computational tools, both as models of natural phenomena and as algorithms useful in their own right, is particularly emphasized in these new papers. In all cases the chapters have been augmented by specially written prefaces. In the case of the reprinted classics, the prefaces help to put the older papers in a modern context. For the new papers, the prefaces have been written by colleagues from a discipline other than the paper's authors, and highlight, for example, what a computer scientist can learn from a biologist's model, or vice versa. Through these cross-disciplinary "dialogues" and a glossary collecting multidisciplinary connotations of pivotal terms, the process of interdisciplinary investigation itself becomes a central theme." 8/9/96

Society of Mind

The Society of Mind, Marvin Minsky, Simon & Schuster paperback, 14.95. "Marvin Minsky - one of the fathers of computer science and cofounder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT - gives a revolutionary answer to the age-old question: "How does the mind work?" Minsky brilliantly portrays the mind as a "society" of tiny components that are themselves mindless. Mirroring his theory, Minsky boldly casts The Society of Mind as an intellectual puzzle whose pieces are assembled along the way. Each chapter - on a self-contained page - corresponds to a piece in the puzzle. As the pages turn, a unified theory of the mind emerges, like a mosaic. Ingenious, amusing, and easy to read, The Society of Mind is an adventure in imagination." There is also a Marvin Minsky: The Society of Mind as part of the Voyager "First Person Series" ($39.95). This series offers "Immediate, intimate conversations with great thinkers about their works, their discoveries, their ideas, their passions. Making the most of CD-ROM technology, the First Person series elegantly integrates exclusive video footage with articles, books and graphics by the authors. Truly expands the meaning of "content.". It includes over 100 minutes of original archival QuickTime video, animated graphics, the full text of The Society of Mind, a selection of additional articles, an interactive tour of Minsky's living room and a video timeline. 8/1/96

Positions available

New agent-related positions were posted by Crystaliz, Extempo Systems, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, German National Research Center for Information Technology (GMD), BT Labs, Boeing, and NeoVision Hypersystems. 8/1/96

AgentNews 1.11

AgentNews Webletter 1.11 was released. 8/1/96

AgentWeb is maintained at the UMBC Lab for Advanced Information Technology by Tim Finin (
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