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In addition to the integration activities discussed above, a number of future research activities are needed. In order that an agent be invocable, its capabilities need to be mapped into terms understood by the ensemble of agents, and also by users. Moreover, as discussed earlier, the natural language vocabulary needed to invoke an agent's services, including lexical, syntactic, and semantic properties, will also be posted on the blackboard for use by the user interface. In general, however, this advertising of vocabulary can lead to conflicts among definitions. We intend to develop an API Description Tool, with which the agent designer describes the services provided by that agent. The tool will produce mappings of expressions in ICL into those services, including vocabulary and knowledge representations that can be merged into a common whole. Techniques used in developing natural language database porting tools (e.g., TEAM [[11]]) will be investigated.

In order to generalize the simulation approach in MAILTALK to encompass the entire collection of agents, the API Description Tool also needs to supply information sufficient to allow the agent architecture to simulate an agent's behavior. It will need to characterize the preconditions and effects of agent actions, thereby also providing a basis for a server's planning to incorporate the agent into a complex action that satisfies a user's stated goal [[7]].

Finally, an interesting question is where to situate the temporal reasoning subsystem. Currently, it is located with the blackboard server, but it could also be distributed as part of the agent layer, enabling other agents to accept complex expressions for evaluation and/or routing. We intend to experiment with various architectures.

Adam Cheyer
Mon Aug 12 15:12:15 PDT 1996