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Newsletter August 20, 2001
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Peer-to-Peer: the battle is just beginning

Peer-to-Peer file sharing, better known as P2P, is based on a simple truth: everyone produces information, and every person has information that someone else needs, somewhere in the world,. The difficulty was getting these two individuals to meet. That's where the Internet came in. The first great leap forward offered e-mail, connection to distant machines, newsgroups. Then the Web came along, making it easier to publish information and create communities. Not that all the problems disappeared overnight. Everyone had the potential to be a publisher, as long as they had the technical know-how to set up a Web service - quite a barrier, if the financial and human implications are also taken into account.

Finally, Peer-to-Peer software made its appearance: installing just one program suddenly made it possible to share documents with an entire community and in return, download countless Gigaoctets of files (music, films, images…) from thousands of other people's computers. No more technical barriers, no more time constraints, and no more legal obstacles. Some people saw it as a return to the founding ideas of the Internet, both from a technical point of view - a perfectly decentralized network - and philosophically, in a world where people could freely give and take any kind of information.

The concept was attractive. Interest kept growing. From a handful at the beginning, dozens of Peer-to-Peer systems appeared. Although the US courts have clearly affirmed that no system, however brilliant, is above the law, the underlying give and take philosophy of file-sharing remains untarnished. Napster's recent difficulties have given claimants to the throne their chance: KaZaA, Audiogalaxy, iMesh are just some of the rising stars in the Peer-to-Peer universe. It is becoming a race against time, as everyone knows that only a few will survive and that the winners will be those who build up the biggest community around their product. But in such a turbulent world, who can predict which P2P software will be victorious at the end of the day?

All the Peer-to-Peer file sharing agents on AgentLand:


> DigOut4U : natural language is within bots’ reach
Semantics for all is becoming a reality in the field of information retrieval on Internet. DigOut4U from Arisem enables you to search in natural language and to analyze the content of retrieved documents.

> PostPet: cuddly toy attacks!
Your children have a passion for Internet? They spend their time sending emails to classmates or penpals from other parts of the world? PostPet will make these moments special.

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> MaxManager
MaxManager is a Web-enabled application dedicated to making online shopping easier and more efficient for you, the consumer. Just shop online as usual, and MaxManager will organize everything for you.


> The future of technology is soft
The marriage of fabrics and electronics is making soft technology a reality. UK company ElectroTextiles makes fabric interfaces which are soft, flexible and lightweight, such as keyboards for PDAs and mobile phones, or car seats that automatically detect the body shape and weight of their user, and adjust themselves accordingly. In the future, this technology could be directly integrated into everyday clothes.
Earlier this year, ElectroTextiles took part in an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art, showing that technological innovation and creative design go hand in hand.

> The Learning Machine Challenge
Could you play a game without knowing the rules or your opponent? Could you create a software program able to do so? That is the challenge laid down by A-I, an Israeli company that is offering $2000 to the creator of the winning program. The game will involve using symbols to represent moves, and contestants will need to autonomously learn the rules and identify strategies for victory as the game proceeds. This competition, which runs until January 1 2002, will give A-I an opportunity to evaluate the state of the art in machine learning systems today.

> Verbmobil: mobile translation by telephone
Automatic text translation has not always been able to deliver on its promises, but the creators of Verbmobil claim that it is 90% accurate. What's more, you can access its translations over a mobile phone, by dialing a special number. The result of research by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Verbmobil can translate between English, German, Chinese and Japanese. It is claimed that, although the system is not yet perfect, mistakes in spoken language are much easier to cope with than in written form.


> Multi-Agent Systems and Applications
(ed. M. Luck, V. Marik, O. Stepankova, R. Trappl)
This book presents selected tutorial lectures given at the summer school on Multi-Agent Systems and Their Applications held in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2001 under the sponsorship of ECCAI and Agent Link. The 20 lectures by leading researchers in the field give a competent state-of-the-art account of research and development in the area of multi-agent systems and advanced applications. The book has sections on the foundations of MAS; social behaviour, meta-reasoning, and learning; and applications.

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