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July 1996

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

Web robots

Robots on the Web is a short overview of web robots. 7/31/96

Netscape and IIOP

Netscape Communications Corporation announced on 7/29 that it will adopt the OMG's Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP) standard as the basis for its distributed object model in its new Netscape ONE open network environment. Netscape has licensed VisiBroker, a Java-based ORB from Visigenic Software to include in the "Galileo" release of Netscape Navigator client software and the "Orion" release of Netscape SuiteSpot server software. Additional details are available in a white paper "The Netscape Intranet Vision and Product Roadmap", as well as several press releases.

Verity's topicAGENT

Verity has announced topicAGENT Server Toolkit -- a collection of tools for creating applications that automatically filter, match and disseminate relevant information to the user. "topicAGENTS are personal agents that search, filter, or categorize information and deliver it according to the user's preferences. topicAGENT Server Toolkit is a development kit with which developers and integrators can build topicAGENT solutions. Many leading partners have developed topicAGENT solutions, including Time Inc. New Media, IBM InfoSage, Knight-Ridder, Xilinx, Cisco Systems and Dell Computer." 7/29/96
Reasoning About Knowledge, by Ronald Fagin, Joseph Y. Halpern, Yoram Moses, and Moshe Y. Vardi, MIT Press, 1995, ISBN 0-262-06162-7, 500 pp., $45.00 (cloth). 7/29/96

Agents for factory planning and scheduling

AARIA, Autonomous Agents at Rock Island Arsenal, is an ARPA-sponsored project designing an autonomous agent based factory scheduler at the Rock Island Arsenal. The project team is headed by Intelligent Automation, Inc. (Rockville, MD) and includes the University of Cincinnati, Industrial Technology Institute, and Flavors Technology, Inc. The agents, programmed in objective-C and running on a network of Pentium based computers under PDO (Portable Distributed Objects), will actively represent each step on the ladder of manufacturing a part: going from the customer, through the sales representative, engineers, manufacturing processes, and finally to the raw materials. 7/29/96

Modula3 meets Obliq

Phantom is an interpreted language designed for large-scale, interactive, distributed applications such as distributed conferencing systems, multi-player games, and collaborative work tools. Phantom combines the distributed lexical scoping semantics of Obliq with a substantial language core. The language core is based on a safe, extended subset of Modula-3, and supports a number of modern programming features, including static typing with implicit declarations, objects, lightweight threads, and higher-order functions and lambda expressions. 7/27/96

Societies of Computation project, Sweden

Societies of Computation is a research project at the University of Karlskrona/Ronneby in Ronneby, Sweden. Its goal is to study and develop computational frameworks for complex distributed systems, bringing together experiences from Distributed AI, Object Oriented Programming, and Distributed Computing. The project is collaborating with industry on real-world problems and well-defined application domains, such as Power Distribution Automation and Telecommunication Management. 7/27/96

Parallel, Distributed and Multiagent Production Systems

Parallel, Distributed and Multiagent Production Systems, Toru Ishida, Springer-Verlag / Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 878, (subseries: Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence), ISBN 3-540-58698-9, xvi+166 pages, softback. Abstract: This volume describes a series of research initiatives on concurrent production systems, which can be classified into three categories: (1) Synchronous parallel production systems or parallel rule firing, where rules are fired in parallel to reduce the total number of sequential production cycles, while rule firings are globally synchronized in each production cycle. (2) Asynchronous parallel production systems or distributed production systems, where rules are distributed among multiple processes, and fired in parallel without global synchronization. Organization self-design is then introduced into the distributed production systems to provide adaptive work allocation. (3) Multiagent production systems, where multiple production system programs compete or cooperate to solve a single problem or multiple problems. A metalevel control architecture is further discussed for multiagent production systems. 9/27/96

Agent-Oriented Systems in Manufacturing

European Workshop on Agent-Oriented Systems in Manufacturing, September 26 and 27, 1996, Berlin, Germany. Paper dealine is AUgust 1.

IBM's RAISE-based AgentBuilder Product

IBM's RAISE-based AgentBuilder Product now available as Alpha version. AgentBuilder is an extensible C++ class library for enhancing applications, especially network-centric applications, with embedded intelligent agents. AgentBuilder has innovative technology for agents to perform reasoning, and for agents to be embedded closely and flexibly with a variety of applications and software environments. 7/27/96

Practical Application of Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Technology

PAAM97 - The Second International Conference and Exhibition on The Practical Application of Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Technology. Monday 21st April - Wednesday 23rd April 1997, London, UK. The Commercial Value of Agents:- An Exploration Through Practical Applications. Paper submission deadline is November 8, 1996. 7/27/96

Extempo Systems Inc.

Extempo Systems (Sunyvale, CA) designs and builds synthetic actors for incorporation into interactive products for entertainment, education, and business. Extempo was founded by Dr. Barbara Hayes-Roth in 1995 and has funding from the NIST ATP program and from DARPA. Extempo's software provides the "brains" for characters that can be integrated with a variety of graphics and animation systems to create life-like, intelligent, and surprising improvisational behavior. 7/24/96

UCLA short course on intelligent software agents

UCLA short course on Intelligent Software Agents, October 23-25, 1996, $1395. The instructors are Cindy Mason, PhD, UC Berkeley Institute for Soft Computing; Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, PhD, Boeing Computer Services; Henry Lieberman, PhD, MIT Media Laboratory; and Ted Selker, PhD, IBM Almaden Research Center. 7/24/96
Dartmouth Workshop on Transportable Agents, September 27-28, 1996. Dartmouth College, Hanover NH. PArticipation will be limited and people wishing to attend should submit abstract and bios by August 15, 1996. 7/23/96


The Second International Conference on Multiagent Systems (ICMAS '96) will be held December 10 (Tue) - 13 (Fri), 1996 at the Keihanna Plaza, Kyoto, Japan. The technical program as well as abstracts of the accepted papers and posters are available from the ICMAS'96 web page. 7/23/96


ACACIA: An Agency Based Collaboration Framework for Heterogenous Multiagent Systems, Wilfred C. Jamison, Syracuse University. Abstract: We introduce our framework called ACACIA for distributed problem solving by multiple agents. While most efforts in multi-agent systems (MAS) focus on homogenous agents, we acknowledge the need for a higher level framework. The issue on interoperability among various frameworks is addressed. We design a system whereby a group of heterogenous agents can collaborate in solving a problem without having to re-engineer the individual agents. This paper gives a macro-level description of our framework which is based mainly on the notion of agencies. We also apply a case-based coordination scheme in which a database of collaboration protocols is consulted for the given problem situation. First, we give our own view of agent and then present agency as our metaphor for agent organization. The rest of the paper will discuss ACACIA's problem solving paradigm and runtime system.7/22/96

Information Filtering

Doug Oard's Information Filtering Resources page is a resource for people conducting research in information filtering. It is maintained as part of the Information Filtering Project at the University of Maryland. It contains links to working systems for a variety of operating systems which are freely available on the net, links to papers and project descriptions and links to commercial systems. 7/22/96
Smart Bookmarks is a windows program by First Floor Software Inc. that helps users organize Web bookmarks and monitor sites for new information. Content providers can include a special "Monitor Me button" which when clicked will cause the page to be monitored for changes. Users can assign unique monitoring properties to groups of bookmarks or URLs including polling schedules. "Visual Bulletins" allow content providers to automatically deliver visual content directly to a user's browser along with a notification of the information and why it's important.7/22/96
AgentNews Webletter 1.10 was released. 7/22/96

Massively parallel microworlds

Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams, Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds, Mitchel Resnick, 1994, Complex Adaptive Systems series. MIT Press, A Bradford Book, ISBN 0-262-18162-2, 192 pp., $24.95 (cloth). Resnick discusses decentralized systems, self-organizing phenomena and their simulation using the massively parallel programming language StarLogo. 7/22/96

Java classes for intelligent agents

Bits & Pixels's Java Intelligent Agent Library ($179) provides components for building intelligent agents, implemented entirely in Java. The library is a collection of over 150 java classes covering various aspects of building intelligent agents. In addition to agent communication and data handling facilities, the library contains rule-based and neural net-based processing modules. There is also an extensive modeling facility for prototyping agent interactions and graphical classes for creating static and animated interactive displays. 7/21/96

Computists International

Computists International is an AI-research-oriented mutual-aid association which publishes highly condensed email newsletters: the twice-weekly Computists' Communique (TCC) and the weekly Computists' Career Jobs (CCJ), Computists' Applied Jobs (CAJ), and Computists' Research Software (CRS). TCC has been published by Dr. Kenneth I. Laws ( since 1991 and includes information on grant and funding opportunities; industry news; Internet and Web news; online resources; research discussion lists; news and software offers in AI, neural networks, genetic algorithms, machine learning, pattern recognition, text understanding, NLP, etc.; software development resources; and career or entrepreneurial tips. 7/21/96

Network-aware mobile programs

M. Ranganathan, Anurag Acharya, Shamik Sharma, Joel Saltz, Network-aware Mobile Programs, Submitted for USENIX'97. Abstract: In this paper, we investigate network-aware mobile programs, programs that can use mobility as a tool to adapt to variations in network characteristics. We present infrastructural support for mobility and network monitoring and show how {\tt adaptalk}, a Java-based mobile Internet chat application can take advantage of this support to dynamically place the chat server so as to minimize response time. Our conclusion was that on-line network monitoring and adaptive placement of shared data-structures can significantly improve performance of distributed applications on the Internet.7/21/96

Resource monitoring for mobile objects

M. Ranganathan, Anurag Acharya, Joel Saltz, Distributed Resource Monitors for Mobile Objects, Position paper submitted to IWOOOS'96. Abstract: We present our position on resource monitoring as three working hypotheses. First, a resource-aware placement of components of a distributed application can provide significant performance gains over a resource-oblivious placement. Second, effective mobility decisions can be based on coarse-grained monitoring. Finally, a simple and cheap distributed resource monitoring scheme can provide sufficient information for effective mobility decisions. We present a design for distributed resource monitors which we believe can provide effective resource information at an acceptable cost. 7/21/96

Autonomous characters

Characters, improvisation, and ... is Craig Reynolds's collection of references to autonomous characters that can improvise and react to their environment. 7/21/96
Swarm is a software package for multi-agent simulation of complex systems being developed at The Santa Fe Institute. Swarm is intended to be a useful tool for researchers in a variety of disciplines, especially artificial life. The basic architecture of Swarm is the simulation of collections of concurrently interacting agents: with this architecture, we can implement a large variety of agent based models. Swarm runs on Unix machines running GNU Objective C and X windows. The beta release is available for download to the general public and source code is freely available under GNU Licensing terms. 7/21/96
Agentsheets is an authoring environment developed by Alex Repenning at the University of Colorado at Boulder . It features a versatile construction paradigm to build dynamic, visual environments for a wide range of problem domains such as art, artificial life, distributed artificial intelligence, education, environmental design, object-oriented programming, simulation and visual programming. The construction paradigm consists of a large number of autonomous, communicating agents organized in a grid, called the agentsheet. Agents can use different communication modalities such as animation, sound and speech. Agentsheets is written in Macintosh Common LISP (MCL 2.0) and is available from the author. 7/21/96

SUMPY maintains a Unix file system

Hongjun Song, Stan Franklin, and Aregahegn Negatu, SUMPY: A Fuzzy Software Agent, Proceedings of the international conference on intelligent systems, Reno, Nevada, June 19-21, 1996. Abstract: SUMPY is a software agent "living" in and helping to maintain a UNIX file system for better disk space utilization by compressing and backing up files. Built using subsumption architecture, SUMPY displays a "plug and play" property. A new UNIX maintenance task can be added to SUMPY's repertoire without modification of existing layers. One of SUMPY's layers sports a fuzzy control mechanism enabling it to achieve its goals in a real-world manner. Another restricts SUMPY's activity to times of slow CPU use. An experiment in agent architecture and in the use of agents for such maintenance tasks, SUMPY promises to prove useful, and has added no significant problems to the test systems. 7/21/96

Will this agent help you "get a life"?

Bruce Krulwich of Andersen Consulting will be testing an intelligent agent named LifestyleFinder on Friday, July 19th, between 10am and 12 noon Central (Chicago) time. They expect to launch LifestyleFinder for real on July 29th, and are testing it now for accuracy and for system load. No word on what it will do, but check out "" to find out. 9/17/96

Java Agent Template 0.3 released

The Java(tm) Agent Template, Version 0.3, is now available. The JAT provides a fully functional template, written entirely in the Java language, for constructing KQML-speaking software agents which communicate peer-to-peer with a community of other agents distributed over the Internet. The JAT includes functionality for dynamically exchanging "Resources", which can include Java classes (e.g. new languages and interpreters, remote services, etc.), data files and information inlined into the KQML messages. JAT agents can be executed as either stand alone applications or as applets via the appletviewer. 7/16/96

Personal agents: A walk on the client side

Kearney, P J (1996). Personal agents: A walk on the client side Real-World Applications of Intelligent Agent Technology seminar London, June 1996, Unicom. This paper will also be presented at the IBC Seminar on Intelligent Agents, London June 1996. An earlier version was presented at the IEE Professional Group C3 Colloquium on Intelligent Agents and their applications, April 1996. Digest No: 1996/101, Distributed Intelligent Systems, Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd. Oxford, UK. Abstract: The world is fast becoming a giant heterogeneous information system in which personal electronics products (including PDAs, PCs, set-top-boxes, etc.) play a key role. The vast number and diversity of the components and uses of the system necessitates a decentralised, emergent organisation. The agent metaphor offers an attractive route to achieving such an organisation. In this paper, I outline the role of agent software in personal electronics in mediating between the individual user and the available services and project a likely sequence in which personal agent-based products will be successful. I also discuss various standardisation and interoperability issues affecting the practicality of agents in this role.7/16/96

Robots beware -- attacks back

Administrators of the XXX.LANL.GOV web server complain of
``"intelligent agents" (a.k.a. "robots") that mindlessly download every link encountered, ultimately trying to access the entire database through the listings links. ... Very few of these same robotrunners would ever dream of downloading entire databases via anonymous ftp, but for some reason conceptualize www sites as somehow associated only to small and limited databases. This mentality must change --- large databases such as this one [which has millions of distinct URL's that lead to gigabytes of data] are likely to grow ever more commonly exported via www.''
They have followed the proposed standard for robot exclusion by maintaining a file /robots.txt specifing the URL's that are off-limits to robots, but this has not been effective. So, to protect themselves, they have set a robot trap (at -- caution: do not visit this page). They say ``We are not willing to play sitting duck to nonsensical methods of "indexing" information. This server is configured to monitor activity and deny access to sites that violate the above guidelines. Continued rapid-fire requests from any site after access has been denied (i.e. with 403 Access denied HTTP response) will be interpreted as a network attack; and we will respond accordingly --- without hesitation, and without further warning.'' 7/16/96

Intelligent Agents = Stupid Humans?

Wired magazine is sponsoring a web-based debate between Pattie Maes and Jaron Lanier on Intelligent Agents = Stupid Humans? which deals with the feasibility and desirability of intelligent agents. The debate consists of daily comments and responses from the participant between June 15 and June 24 and also includes a forum for ongoing comments from observers. This is the latest debate in Wired's "Brain Tennis" series which previously has featured "the Web as a perpetually unprofitable publishing medium", "the end of science", and "journalistic objectivity". The two are starting from somewhat different perspectives:
  • Pattie Maes: "Agents will bring about a social revolution: almost anyone will have access to the kind of support staff that today is the mark of a few privileged people. As a result, they will be able to digest large amounts of information and engage in several different activities at once."
  • Jaron Lanier: "The idea of 'intelligent agents' is both wrong and evil. I also believe that this is an issue of real consequence to the near-term future of culture and society. As the infobahn rears its gargantuan head, the agent question looms as a deciding factor in whether this new beast will be much better than TV, or much worse."
Agent Knowledgebase Associates is a Virginia Beach based company specializing in "Knowledge Management, Information Agents and WWW Advertising". 7/13/96

ICMAS'96 Workshop -- Animal societies as a DAI metaphor

Animal societies as an alternative metaphor basis for Distributed Artificial Intelligence , an ICMAS'96 Workshop, December 10th, 1996 (Keihanna Plaza, Kyoto, Japan). Scope: When designing computational organizations, DAI research generally gives more attention to sociological metaphors than to biological ones. However, it is worth noting that most of the issues being addressed in DAI (e.g., cooperation, coordination, organization, social interaction) have a significant intersection with the goals and interests of a variety of research communities (ethology, primatology, behavioral ecology, or artificial life) that study the social mechanisms that occur in non-human societies - i.e. animal societies.

Tcl Plug-ins for Netscape Navigator released by Sun

Sun has released Tcl Plug-ins for Netscape Navigator, making it possible to create Web pages that include Tcl/Tk scripts. This provides an interesting alternative to the use of Java applets for Web-based agent programs. Ray Johnson says "Tcl/Tk complements the capabilities of Java. While Java is a system programming language that meets the needs of sophisticated programmers with features such as objects, threads, and rich class libraries, Tcl/Tk is a scripting language that is ideal for smaller applications, such as simple user interfaces, macros, and system integration." Sun's current version of the Tcl plug-in runs only with Netscape Navigator under Solaris, Macintosh, and Windows with support for other browsers and operating systems planned. 9/11/96

Intelligent Software Agents on the Internet

Thesis: Bjorn Hermans, "Intelligent Software Agents on the Internet: an inventory of currently offered functionality in the information society & a prediction of (near-)future developments" is now available on the World Wide Web.", Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands. Abstract: Software agents are a rapidly developing area of research. However, to many it is unclear what agents are and what they can (and maybe cannot) do. In the first part, this thesis will provide an overview of these, and many other agent-related theoretical and practical aspects. Besides that, a model is presented which will enhance and extend agents' abilities, but will also improve the way the Internet can be used to obtain or offer information and services on it. The second part is all about trends and developments. On the basis of past and present developments of the most important, relevant and involved parties and factors, future trends and developments are extrapolated and predicted. 9/9/96

AgentWeb Salon opens

The AgentWeb salon is a Java-based on-line chat room for people and agents interested in real-time interactions. It is implemented with the alpha version of JavaTalk!, an interactive web (java) based chat. 7/9/96

IBM releases Aglets library

Technology: IBM Tokyo Research Laboratory is making available an early release of their Aglets Library for programming mobile agents in Java(tm). The package is based on JDK 1.0.2 and Object Serialization in the RMI package from JavaSoft. The first beta release includes Java packages, documentation, and a demo applications. 7/9/96

ICMAS'96 Workshop: Learning, Interaction and Organizations in Multiagent Environments

Workshop: Learning, Interaction and Organizations in Multiagent Environments, ICMAS'96 Workshop, December 10th, 1996. Extended abstracts due August 25. This workshop FOCUSES on the relationships between learning, interaction and organizations in multiagent environments. The need for studying these relationships is twofold. On the one hand, the efficiency and the success of a multiagent system largely depends on how efficient and successful the individual agents interact. On the other hand, even in simplified application domains it is almost impossible to correctly specify appropriate interactions between the individual agents a priori, and it is therefore desirable that the agents themselves are capable of learning to interact appropriately. The workshop is INTENDED to cover the whole range of open questions and problems concerning these relationships in all types of multiagent systems (e.g., robots interacting with dynamic environments, multiple robot systems, systems composed of interacting software agents, hybrid systems composed of both interacting humans and machines). A major GOAL of the workshop is to get a better understanding of how learning can improve the interactivity between agents embedded in multiagent environments. 7/8/96

Architectures for human-like agents

Paper: What sort of architecture is required for a human-like agent?, Aaron Sloman, The University of Birmingham. Invited talk at Cognitive Modeling Workshop, AAAI96, Portland Oregon, Aug 1996. Abstract: This paper is about how to give human-like powers to complete agents. For this the most important design choice concerns the overall architecture. Questions regarding detailed mechanisms, forms of representations, inference capabilities, knowledge etc. are best addressed in the context of a global architecture in which different design decisions need to be linked. Such a design would assemble various kinds of functionality into a complete coherent working system, in which there are many concurrent, partly independent, partly mutually supportive, partly potentially incompatible processes, addressing a multitude of issues on different time scales, including asynchronous, concurrent, motive generators. Designing human like agents is part of the more general problem of understanding design space, niche space and their interrelations, for, in the abstract, there is no one optimal design, as biological diversity on earth shows. 7/7/96

AgentNews 1.9

AgentNews v1n9 released. 7/6/96

Yahoo! and Agents Inc. to team

Yahoo! and Agents Inc. announced a strategic partnership to collaborate to produce a firefly-like service for Web sites. "The degree of information overload on the Web today has no historical precedent," said Nick Grouf, CEO of Agents Inc. "The combination of firefly and Yahoo! will offer Web surfers today and in the future a unique navigational tool to harness the full potential of the Web." ( More info). 6/5/96

Intelligence in Services and Networks

Conference: IS&N'97 , Fourth International Conference on Intelligence in Services and Networks "Technology for Cooperative Competition". Como, Italy May 27-29, 1997. Extended abstracts due 31 Oct. 1996. More information. 7/4/96

Intelligent Integration of Information

Papers: Kluwer is making the double issue on `Intelligent Integration of Information' of the Journal on Intelligent Information Systems (Vol.6, ns. 2-3) available in bookform. See -- Wiederhold, Gio (editor): Intelligent Integration of Information (summary); Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston MA, July 1996. (Foreword); (Glossary); 7/3/96

IBM's Webbie

Agent: IBM has released an alpha version (OS/2 and Win95) of the WBI (for "Web Browser Intelligence" aka "Webby") agent which acts as a WWW proxy between your browser and the rest of the Web. WBI can remember wherever you've been on the web, what you found there, and can help you recall any word on any page that you've visited. It can alert you, before you go to a page, whether the site is not available or the access time will be slow and helps you navigate more productively through the web by learning your preferences and patterns for searching for information. WBI can also alert you if a page you have an interest in has had a content change. 7/2/96

IBM's AgentBuilder

Technology: IBM has released an alpha version of AgentBuilder, a developer's toolkit for building agent-based systems. The OS/2 version is curretnly available for download over Internet. AgentBuilder is based in great part on the research version of the RAISE (Reusable Agent Intelligence Software Environment) class library developed at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center by Benjamin Grosof, David W. Levine, Hoi Y. Chan, and others. 7/2/96

Partially Controlled Multi-Agent Systems

Paper: Brafman, R.I. and Tennenholtz, M. (1996), "On Partially Controlled Multi-Agent Systems", JAIR, Volume 4, pages 477-507. Available as (356K) or (146K). Abstract: Motivated by the control theoretic distinction between controllable and uncontrollable events, we distinguish between two types of agents within a multi-agent system: controllable agents, which are directly controlled by the system's designer, and uncontrollable agents, which are not under the designer's direct control. We refer to such systems as partially controlled multi-agent systems, and we investigate how one might influence the behavior of the uncontrolled agents through appropriate design of the controlled agents. In particular, we wish to understand which problems are naturally described in these terms, what methods can be applied to influence the uncontrollable agents, the effectiveness of such methods, and whether similar methods work across different domains. Using a game-theoretic framework, this paper studies the design of partially controlled multi-agent systems in two contexts: in one context, the uncontrollable agents are expected utility maximizers, while in the other they are reinforcement learners. We suggest different techniques for controlling agents' behavior in each domain, assess their success, and examine their relationship. 7/1/96

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