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Agents, KQML and Knowledge Sharing

August 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.

Believable Chess Agents

The NYT has a article Checkmate and the Computer Cries which discusses attempts by commercial chess programs to add believable-agent like qualities to their programs.
    "Gasper believes for a chess program to be realistic, it should exhibit the same frailties humans show when they get ahead or behind. That's how he's programmed Power Chess, a game by Sierra Online that is one of the hottest selling chess programs on the market. "When you play most programs, you're playing an insect-brained move picker," Gasper said. "When ours gets behind, he gets depressed, cowers, puts too much emphasis on defense. It's much more reminiscent of human opponents.""
Another Sierra program Power Chess employs two chess engines, a king engine and a queen engine. Players of the game do battle against the King while the Queen engine monitors the match. Afterwards, the queen engine replays the moves and explains the mistakes and missed opportunities to the human opponent.
    The Queen does so using an alluring -- to some sultry -- voice of a French actress. "When we were in testing, we asked people what they thought of the voice, and they said, 'oh, I could listen to her all day,' " said Gasper. "When I set out to program this game, I spent months reading usenet postings on computer-chess bulletin boards," Gasper said. "What I kept hearing is 'it's not as much fun to play a program as a human being. The problem with computers is they don't squirm.' "

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Watch is a nice collection of information on web search engines. Creator and maintainer Danny Sullivan, of Calafia Consulting, say "It contains all that "A Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines" had, plus it is more accessible to search engine users. The site remains grounded in the technical. How do these things work, or more specifically, how well do these things work. It also remains committed to tracking search engine news, important changes, and providing quality information about these important tools. The information from continuing studies, search engine help pages, articles, reviews, books, tips from others, feedback received directly from the various search engines, and interviews I conduct in the course of covering the search engine beat." They also run a mailing list devoted to search engines.


"A KQML-CORBA Based Architecture for the Communication of Intelligent Agents in Cooperative Service and Network Management", D. Benech, T. Desprats, Y. Raynaud (Universite Paul Sabatier, France), First IFIP/IEEE International Conference on Management of Multimedia Networks and Services '97, July 8-10, 1997, Montréal, Canada.


Alexa Internet (founded in April 1996 by Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat describes itself as "The company gathers, manages and analyzes multi-terabyte collections of information to make information access and navigation easy for everyone." Their first product is Alexa -- a client program (as opposed to a plug-in or proxy server) that has two components -- the toolbar and the contact system. As you browse the Web, the Alexa toolbar contacts their servers independently and separate from your Web browser. Alexa provides the following services:
  • Where Am I? -- Alexa provides context for a site visited by offering instant background information (e.g., number of pages, frequency of updates, number of links into the site, popularity, etc.) so you can decide if it is worthwhile.
  • What happened to my page? -- Alexa gives you automatic access to unavailable web pages through their archive, eliminating the problem of "404 Not Found" messages.
  • Where should I go next? -- Wherever you travel online, Alexa is there with suggestions hot-linked to places you might want to visit next.
  • Who else is online? -- Alexa tells you instantly which of your friends and colleagues are currently online, and lets you send an instant message so you can communicate with them in real-time.
The first two services are provided using their own archive of the Web which, as of July 1997, is in excess of five Terabytes. Alexa began collecting the Web in early 1996 and now has at least one snapshot of over 500K web sites. They adjust site visits to reflect their apparent speed of change and estimate that they have a new snapshot approximately every 60 days. The browsing suggestions are computing using collaborative filtering over the database of paths taken by Alexa users (with suitable privacy safeguards).

MacroBot -- write search agent scripts in Basic

Information Projects Group, Inc of Reston, Virginia has released MacroBot -- a programmable search agent which runs under windows 95 or NT ($50 for the Pro version and $30 for the LITE version). They say... "MacroBot is the first agent software program that uses Basic as a programming language thereby giving users a simple yet sophisticated way to extract meaningful data from web sites connected to the Internet (or an Intranet) -- worldwide. With MacroBot users can write or download simple 'macro' programs that tell the bot what to do. Some macros are included with the software and they are easy to create and share with friends and colleagues. Macros included are; link checker (every web author should have one), email address extractor, keyword search of web site(s) in title or text, and site map." 8/5/97

let your browser do the hard work

Ken Laws reports in TCC 7.51 that Let Your Browser Do the Hard Work is a website about off-line programs that can monitor and download web pages automatically, then browse the cache on your hard disk. 27 programs are listed, most of them shareware with limited free trials. 8/5/97

UNICOM agent seminars

UNICOM Seminars is running a series of agent related seminars and tutorials in London on 6-9 October 1997. Titles in the series include Agents and HCI, Agents in Telecoms, Agents in Information Systems, Intelligent Systems and Software Agents for Finance.


Sixth International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR'98) will be helf in Trento, Italy, June 2-5, 1998 with workshops and coordinated events May 30 - June 1). Extended abstracts are due Monday December 1, 1997.

Matsushita's VRML virtual humans

TechWire has an article Virtual Humans To Populate The Internet which describes Matsushita's recent announcement of 3-D computer graphics software for creating animated virtual humans for use over the Internet. Matsushita will demonstrate the technology at SigGraph '97 and will make a free beta version of a VRML 2.0 browser and contents available for downloading later in the month. Matsushita has submitted the technology to the VRML Consortium for consideration as an industry standard for 3-D animation. 8/5/97


The Japanese carmaker Honda has developed P2 - the first human-shaped robot which can move independently and do basic manual tasks. The battery powered P-2 stands six feet tall, weighs 462 pounds and resembles an astronaut in a space suit. It has its own autonomous control process and can walk, change direction, and go up and down stairs without the need for human instructions. It can even correct its own balance automatically. Honda says it can also be moved by radio remote control and programmed to do various jobs with two hands. A 30 second quicktime movie shows P2 walking, sidestepping, climbing steps and grabbing handles. 8/4/97

MOLE 2.0 now available

The MOLE group at the University of Stuttgart announced the availability of MOLE 2.0, a Java-based mobile agent system. New features include: easier installation and usage; Moleview, the graphical system monitor and various internal improvements. 8/4/97

Learning in Autonomous Robots

Henry Hexmoor and Maja Mataric are guest editing a special issue of the Autonomous Robots Journal on Learning in Autonomous Robots. Papers should be submitted by August 15, 1997.


PAAM98 - The Third International Conference and Exhibition on The Practical Application of Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Technology will be held Monday 23rd March - Wednesday 25th March 1998 in London. PAAM98 will provide tutorials, invited talks, refereed papers, panel discussions, poster session, social agenda and a full industrial exhibition. PAAM'98 will form part of a five day Practical Application Expo which will also include conferences on Data Mining, Prolog, Constraint and Knowledge Management Technology. Submitted papers or industrial reports describing current or near-term practical applications of agent technology by December 5th, 1997. 8/4/97

Agents' world

Agents' World will be a multi-conference on agents and multi-agent systems held 2-8 July 1998 at Cite des Sciences - La Villette in Paris. The renowned Cite des Sciences at the Parc de la Villette in Paris sets the scene for an international conference, six international workshops, and an international competition in a week-filling programme of invited talks, demonstrations, technical presentations and pannel discussions. The components are:
  • ICMAS'98 -- the 3rd International Conference on Multi-Agent Systems, focusing on theory and practice of multi-agent systems.
  • ATAL'98 -- the 5th Int. W. on Agents : Theories, Architectures, and Languages, focusing on theory and practice of intelligent agents.
  • CIA'98 -- the 2nd Int. W. on Cooperative Information Agents, focusing on multi-agent systems and databases
  • IATA'98 -- the Intelligent Agents for Telecommunications Applications, focusing on multi-agent systems and telecommunications
  • CRW'98 Collective Robotics -- Focusing on Multi-Agent Systems and Robotics
  • ACW'98 -- Agents in CommunityWare, focusing on multi-agent systems and telematics.
  • MABS'98 -- Multi-Agent Systems and Agent-Based Simulation, focusing on multi-agent systems, social sciences, artificial life
  • Paris'98 -- Featuring Robocup'98 and FIRA RWC'98, international competitions between soccer robots teams

Intelligent User Interfaces

The 1998 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces will be held January 6-9, 1998 in San Francisco, California, USA. 8/4/97

ILU 2.0

An alpha release of the The Inter-Language Unification system (ILU) version 2.0 is available as source for UNIX or Windows or pre-built Windows binaries at ILU is a multi-language object interface system. The object interfaces provided by ILU hide implementation distinctions between different languages, between different address spaces, and between operating system types. ILU interfaces can be specified in either the OMG's IDL language, or in ILU's Interface Specification Language, which allows extensions to the CORBA spec. Programming languages supported in 2.0alpha10 are ANSI C, Common Lisp, Java, and Python; rough C++ support is also present. Operating systems supported in 2.0alpha10 are all Windows platforms with Win32 and WinSock, and all UNIX platforms with BSD sockets and minimal POSIX compliance. 2.0alpha10 supports interoperability with ONC RPC services, OMG CORBA services, World Wide Web HTTP services, and XNS Courier services. ``Plug-in'' extensibility is provided for RPC message formats, message transport schemes, URL schemes, accounting and authorization identity types, threading and event loop processing, and various other things. ILU is provided free for unrestricted use. 8/4/97

Jango, a stealth shopbot

Jango is a free "intelligent shopping assistant" for Windows 95/NT, from Netbot, Inc. in Seattle. You enter a product name and Jango will bring back specs, reviews, vendors, and prices. Then it helps you fill our order forms. Netbot's parallel search technology is from the work of Oren Etzioni and Dan Weld at UWashington. Jango runs in your browser, so online stores can't easily recognize or block it. 8/4/97


The First IEEE Conference on Open Architectures and Network Programming ( OPENARCH'98) will be held on April 3-4, 1998 in San Francisco, CA, USA, at the Hotel Nikko. The conference is sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society and will be co-located and organized in conjunction with INFOCOM'98. Authors are invited to submit papers, and proposals for tutorials and panel discussions that address areas which include:
  • Active Networks
  • Intelligent Agents and Trading
  • Information Representation, Modeling and Abstractions
  • Programming for Mobility
  • Interactive Multimedia, Multi-party Cooperation and Groupware


A beta version of Kafka: Yet Another Multi-Agent Library for Java is available. Kafka is yet another agent library designed for constructing multi-agent based distributed applications. Kafka is a flexible, extendable, and easy-to-use java class library for programmers who are familiar with distributed programming. Its features include:
  • Runtime Reflection: Agents can modify their behaviour (program codes) at runtime. The behaviour of the agent is represented by an abstract class Action. It is useful for remote maintenance or installation services.
  • Remote Evaluation: Agents can receive and evaluate program codes (classes) with or without the serialized object. Remote evaluation is a fundamental function of a mobile agent and is thought to be a push model of service delivery.
  • Distributed Name Service: Agents have any number of logical names that don't contain the host name. These names can be managed by the distributed directories.
  • Customizable security policy :a very flexible, customizable, 3-layered security model is implemented in Kafka.
  • 100% Java and RMI compatible: Kafka is written completely in Java. Agent is a Java RMI server object itself. So, agents can directly communicate with other RMI objects.

Java Mobile Agents

There will be a workshop on Java-based Paradigms for Mobile Agent Facilities as part of the OOPSLA 97 conference to be held in Atlanta between October 5-9, 1997. The workshop is on sunday, October 5th. 8/4/97


Iam Soboroff ( is maintaining a page on Agent-based Information Retrieval . It inclu slides from a recent tutorial presentation at SIGIR'97. 8/4/97


IBM is making WBI (Web Browser Intelligence, pronounced "webby") available by license. WBI can be used to provide such agent enhancements as:
  • annotate web pages with news bulletins, ads, or reminders
  • track electronic purchases, and provide summaries & reminders
  • filter or manage push information content
  • develop expert "persona" while searching or browsing
The WBI Personal Web Agent for 95/NT/OS2 can be downloaded free for personal use. To learn more about the WBI development kit and technology that built the personal agent, see WBI Technology and Development Toolkit. You can also read the Press Release. 8/4/97

Jess 3.0

Ernest Friedman-Hill of Sandia has released Jess 3.0. This is a final release of Jess, a clone of the popular CLIPS expert system shell written entirely in Java. Jess 3.0 adds significant new features like multifields, multislots, and incremental reset, includes a number of bug fixes, a more flexible user function interface, *lots* of new built-in functions, and a general code cleanup and reorganization (a 'jess' package.) Jess 3.0 is compatible with all versions of Java starting with version 1.0.2. It is (in particular) Java 1.1.3 compatible. 8/3/97

Intelligent Environments

Intelligent Environments Symposium will be part of the AAAI Spring Symposium Series held March 23-25, 1998 at Stanford University. "Intelligent Environments are spaces in which computation is seamlessly used to enhance ordinary activity. ... Interaction with these environments should be in terms of forms that people are naturally comfortable with. Their user-interface primitives are not menus, mice and windows but gesture, speech, context, and affect. At least in theory, it should be possible for a person to forget she is using a computer while interacting with one. Building Intelligent Environments requires a unique breadth of knowledge that extends beyond any of the traditional boundaries of AI research areas. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together researchers from various AI backgrounds to discuss the issues involved in creating these complex, interactive, embedded systems. We expect to have relevant contributions from interested researchers in computer vision, software agents, knowledge representation, robotics, machine learning, and speech understanding." 8/3/97

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