The OAATM News

Previous Issue Vol 1, no. 2, January 1, 1997

OAA release 2.0 progressing...

As the new year starts, work on Release 2.0 of the Open Agent ArchitectureTM is finally getting back on track. Several end of the year project deadlines posed a number of distractions, but the rewriting, packaging and documenting is back underway.

As mentioned in the previous issue of OAA News, Release 2.0 will feature:

  • A more powerful Facilitator agent that can handle an extended version of the Interagent Communication Language (ICL).
  • A common agent library API across all supported programming languages and platforms: Prolog, C, Lisp, Java, Delphi, Visual Basic; Windows 3.1, Windows 95, SunOs 4.1.3, Solaris, SGI Irix.
  • Expanded documentation, include a reference manual, improved developer's guide, and tutorial.
  • The agent library will support improved trigger routines, event handling with priorities, and integrated data management routines.

    We still plan to have a OAA-Lite release available to the general public in 4Q'97, so stay tuned to the OAA home page for the latest news...

  • SRI distributed agents promise flexibility

    By Deborah DeVoe, InfoWorld
    InfoWorld Publication Date: December 23/December 30, 1996 (Vol. 18, Issue 52/53)
    Reformatted from Infoworld's original source

    Science-fiction dreams of natural interaction between computers and humans are coming closer to reality.

    SRI International is celebrating 50 years of "inventing in the future" by demons trating several innovative technologies, including Open Agent Architecture (OAA) , a distributed agent architecture that promises to take human/computer interact ion to a new plateau.


    In SRI's Automated Office, commands that are handwritten, typed, or spoken are sent to multiple agents for processing.

    The nonprofit research, development, and consulting organization, founded as the Stanford Research Institute, hopes to commercialize the technology, with a key goal for the institute being increased introduction of its technologies to the m arket through licensing and company spin-offs.

    OAA moves past distributed objects, which most often have rigidly defined method s for handling requests and working with other objects, to distributed agents th at can modify actions depending on the requested task and can work with other ag ents as they are dynamically added, SRI said.

    With a flexible community of platform-independent agents, a user command or quer y can be broken down and sent out to the most appropriate or available agent to deliver a result.

    OAA agents are larger object components that include some intelligence and can r un independently, said Douglas Moran, senior computer scientist at SRI's Artific ial Intelligence Center. The agents are based on SRI's InterAgent Communication s Language, a logic-based declarative language that supports natural-language ex pressions.

    The technology is based on a Facilitator agent, which takes a high-level express ion describing a request and then decides which agents are available and capable of handling subparts of the request.

    For example, in SRI's OAA-based Automated Office application, speech-recognition , handwriting-recognition, and phone agents are integrated with calendar, e-mail , and database agents.

    A user can handwrite a message on a small client saying, "When mail arrives for me about security notify me immediately." This is automatically converted into typed text by the handwriting-recognition agent. The user then double-checks th at the conversion is correct and clicks Do It.

    The request is translated to an agent-recognized statement and sent to the Facil itator agent. The Facilitator then intelligently decides to route subrequests t o other agents, including the e-mail agent to set the rule, the database agent t o retrieve the user's password, the calendar agent to locate the user when a mes sage is received, and the phone or e-mail agent to deliver a received message. The Facilitator also manages all agent interactions for handling the complex que ry.

    In the demonstration, after sending in the e-mail request, the user received a p hone call asking for the user's password. The agent communicating over the phon e then "read" e-mail received for the user that included the word "security."

    "With OAA you can get your database, calendar, and any other systems you use wor king together in ways they weren't designed to be used," said Adam Cheyer, an SR I computer scientist. The system is very flexible, finding another way to compl ete a request if an initial method is unavailable. If your computer is down, fo r example, e-mail messages can be routed via phone.

    The agents communicate using TCP but can also use remote procedural calls. SRI is working to enable OAA to run on top of CORBA.

    The User Interface agent runs locally on a client, which can range from a standa rd PC to a phone to a personal digital assistant; the other agents run on any sy stem in a LAN. The client needs to be connected to the LAN or Internet to acces s the other agents. SRI has run OAA applications on 25-MHz clients with 4MB to 6MB of RAM.

    SRI plans to provide an upgraded OAA toolkit to the public in early 1997 but has yet to make final commercialization plans.

    The toolkit will enable companies to build agents. In addition, agent wrappers can turn an existing speech-recognition engine or CORBA-based object, for exampl e, into an agent, Cheyer said.

    Agents can be developed on any platform. SRI already has agents on Unix, Window s, and Java.

    SRI International Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif., is at (415) 326-6200 or http://ww w.sri.com.