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Newsletter April 30, 2001
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Let a virtual guide show you around

The number one goal for any web site is to make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. And since a satisfied net surfer is a loyal one - more likely to return to the site, to complete a purchase, to recommend it to friends - any good ideas about how to make this happen are warmly welcomed.

That's why more and more web sites and intranets are equipping themselves with a virtual guide. La Cantoche, a French company specialized in animated characters, has just released its Living Actor technology. These lightweight 3D guides come in four different roles for the moment, the Ambassador, Vendor, Coach and Technician. Moving freely around the screen, they talk to you aloud or via a text box and react to your clicks. Living Actor's demo character is a cartoon dog named Claude who shows off his talents with bravado and a touch of humor. It certainly makes a change to have the answer to your question brought directly to you (like your slippers after a hard day at the office?), rather than having to wade through pages of text. And Claude can even remember what you previously needed help with, to personalize his service just for you. He only speaks English for the moment, but rumor has it that Claude is busy learning many other languages too.

This type of technology can also be hooked up to chatterbots, adding natural language conversation skills to the character's friendly visual contact, to make the complete virtual guide and helper. This will be one of the themes of the first European salon dedicated to chatterbots, Botshow 2001, to be held in Paris, France on 14 June. Of course, AgentLand's Cybelle will be present, chatting to visitors with her usual charm and wit. It could be an opportunity for her to get to know Claude better!

Living Actor:
Botshow 2001:


N E W   A G E N T S

>> Metasearch <<

> Kartoo
Developed during two years by a team of 5 people in Clermont-Ferrand, France, this new intelligent metasearcher uses fifteen French and English search engines (Yahoo, Google, Excite, Nomade...) and displays the results on a thematic map. It allows the user to do searches in natural language, to send the results to a friend, etc. “This visual interface allows users to control their search” said Nicolas Baleydier, cofounder of Kartoo. If you type " Computer " as a query, Kartoo also displays related topics like " systems ", " software ", " companies", etc.

>> Virtual Humans <<

> Webbie
Webbie is a virtual model with the perfect specifications: she doesn't gain weight, she doesn't have a boyfriend and she never complains. It's an innovative agent that talks, laughs and performs variety of actions.

A G E N T  U P D A T E S

>> Metasearch <<

> Profusion
Intelliseek has introduced its newly IntelliClip® technology with the release of ProFusion Search and Page Alerts! ProFusion's Search Alert feature enables you to search across the Web for new and relevant content – even while you're away from your computer! ProFusion's Page Alert feature (formerly Intelliseek Web Tracker) monitors specific pages and reports when relevant information appears on that page via email.

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> AutoForm
AutoForm is a browser plugin that simplifies the insertion of your personal data into web based forms by storing it in a profile database. Type your details into AutoForm and next time you come accross a registration form, click AutoForm and watch as the form magically fills itself.


> “ma m@isonnet”: a smart house for a smart life
Cisco Systems, France Telecom and Kaufman&Broad create a smart house: "ma m@isonnet". This house is equipped with a domestic Intranet that offers its owner a simple and user-friendly way of communicating with the house. It makes it possible to control various devices and services, for example: control the temperature and the light of each room, make sure that baby is sleeping peacefully in his room, telephone and surf simultaneously, start the washing machine, connect to a videoclub on-line or to all the world's radios stations, share practical information with the neighbours, or browse the Web from the garden.

> ActiveBuddy
ActiveBuddy(TM) interactive agents are smart applications that deliver content and services to instant message windows. Users simply add interactive agents to their Instant Messaging buddy contact lists, like they would for any other contact, then make conversational requests for things like movie showtimes, stock quotes, games, customer service help, company sales reports and lots more.
Interactive agents are designed for instant messaging applications such as AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger Service, Odigo and others. They also work on all sorts of wireless devices. It carries user profiles across all platforms and devices, so they know who you are no matter what messaging network or device you're using.

> Knowledge exchange between intelligent agents
Intelligent agents cooperate with each other over networks such as the internet, each contributing its own specialized skill and its own resources. Attempting to operate without a common language, concept system or code of conduct, these bots have been lost in their own worlds. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recognized that this problem is the chief obstacle to the next stage of distributed computing. The agency has launched a major program, Cooperative Agent-Based Planning Systems (CoABS), to advance the technology to the next level.
Cycorp, Inc. the supplier of formalized common sense will be providing a key technology, Conceptual Alignment, whereby the software agents can understand each other's messages even though they continue to use their separate, specialized languages. The Cyc ontology (or concept system) will be used not only to describe content of the agents' messages, but, more important, it will be used to represent the structure and semantic features of agent communication and cooperation.

> Peer-to-peer: to serve medical researches
The Intel-United Devices Cancer Research Project is asking people to volunteer their PCs to help process molecular research being conducted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford in England and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. To participate, the volunteer have to download The Intel® Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer Program that works like a screensaver: it runs when the computer isn't being used. The computer never leaves the desk, and the project never interrupts the usual PC use.
This "virtual supercomputer" uses peer-to-peer technology. By combining thousands of ordinary PCs to work on extremely large computational projects, problems can be solved more quickly and less expensively than by conventional methods.

> The soldiers of the future will look like Robocop and stalk their target like the Terminator
Computer displays on their visor-screens will keep them in touch with comrades. When they say the word, tiny rocket launchers mounted on their wrists will fire projectiles, which will lock on to a target visible only on their eye-level screens. Personal body armour will automatically sense the landscape and change colour accordingly to camouflage the soldier… For five years, that has been the dream. But there has been a catch: it would take a 20lb battery to power tomorrow's hi-tech infantry soldier for even a few days in the field. A US team of engineers may be about to change that. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state have just unveiled a space age generator that weighs less than 2lb, measures little more than a fat paperback novel, can generate 25 watts and keep going for a week.

> A robotic scorpion relying entirely on its reflexes could out perform smarter machines
Frank Kirchner and Alan Rudolph at Northeastern University in Boston have designed a 50-centimetre-long scorpion that has the ability to solve extremely complex problems. This robotic scorpion will try to make its way 80 kilometres across the Mojave desert in California, using little more than programmed automatic reflexes to survive. Its task will be to travel across the desert, reach the target and find its way back again.>BR> The team chose scorpions as the model for their robot partly because the creatures can move so easily over tough terrain, and partly because their reflexes are much simpler than a mammal's.


> The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation. Its objective is to support the conceptualization, design, and implementation of Artificial Intelligence capable of humanlike general cognition; and Artificial Intelligence which acts for the benefit for humanity


> Sun Announces an Open Source initiative to develop standardized Peer-to-Peer protocols
Sun Microsystems unveiled Project JXTA as a prototype, next-generation network computing research project that will enable easy access to peers and resources on the rapidly emerging, multi-dimensional, "expanded Web." Sun also launched, an Open Source project where developers can collaborate to evolve Project JXTA and create innovative, distributed services and applications that allow users to naturally and quickly find, get, and use information.
During the incubation phase of Project JXTA Sun's Project JXTA team worked closely with a core group of industry leaders. To drive innovation, ubiquity, and new application development, Sun has now released the source code of JXTA.

> LexiQuest and AltaVista for a natural language search engine
LexiQuest, Inc., a provider of Text Mining solutions for the management and access of information using advanced linguistic technology, and AltaVista Company, the search and information marketplace for consumers and businesses, announced they will jointly offer advanced linguistic search capabilities to vertical industries worldwide.
Through this relationship, LexiQuest's natural language processing tools will be integrated with the AltaVista Search Engine 3.0 software platform. This combination is designed to enhance knowledge management applications with the ability to find results based on the meaning of search queries-not just the individual words entered-for more accurate and focused results.

> The COGITO project: the agent improves your e-commerce
COGITO – E-Commerce with Guiding Agents based on Personalized Interaction Tools – aims at improving consumer-supplier relationships in future e-commerce interfaces featuring agents, which can converse with users in written natural language (“chatterbots"). This project aims at a system that is not merely re-active to some user request, but pro-active and capable of engaging in a goal-directed conversation with the user.


> Botshow 2001: the meeting place for chatterbots
Botshow 2001 is the first European salon dedicated to the revolutionary interface known as conversational agents, or chatterbots. It will take place on 14 June 2001 at Paris Expo, Paris (France). This meeting will present the different types of conversational agents according to their functions and their graphic, editorial and computational capacities, as well as the main benefits to be gained from their different uses.
The salon will be a point of convergence for a wide spectrum of Internet professionals: Senior executives from established companies and start-ups, marketing and e-business leaders, specialists in customer relations, multimedia designers and producers, managers of internal and external communication. AgentLand will be taking part in the salon, with the introductory conference given by C. Revelli (CEO of Cybion). You will also be able to visit our stand, discover Cybelle, your virtual guide, and talk to our specialists in intelligent agents.

> The 10th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence
The 10th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (AI-ED 2001) will be held on May 19-23 2001 at San Antonio, Texas, USA. It provides opportunities for the cross-fertilization of information and ideas from researchers in the many fields that make up this interdisciplinary research area, including: computer science, psychology, linguistics, sociology, and philosophy.
The workshops will be around multi-agent architectures for distributed learning environments, animated pedagogical agents for education, training, and edutainment, computer assisted language learning, etc.


> Peer-to-Peer: harnessing the power of disruptive technologies
This book, by Andy Oram, presents the goals that drive the developers of the best-known peer-to-peer systems, the problems they've faced, and the technical solutions they've found. The contributors are leading developers of well-known peer-to-peer systems, such as Gnutella, Freenet, Jabber, Popular Power, SETI@Home, Red Rover, Publius, Free Haven, Groove Networks, and Reputation Technologies. Topics include metadata, performance, trust, resource allocation, reputation, security, and gateways between systems. The book published in March 2001 costs $29.95.

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