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Newsletter October 01, 2001

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Let people know how you feel

Electronic mail is without a doubt the most widely used Internet service. It makes it possible for two or more people to communicate with each other. But it doesn't allow them to express moods and feelings satisfactorily. The rules of "Netiquette" only allow you to go so far in showing joy or sadness. How is to possible to add humanity to electronic messages? Well, there are a number of ways to make your e-mails more expressive.

To show your mood you can use smileys. Theses are a series of symbols which very schematically represent a human face with simple expressions. To recognize them, turn your head 90 to the side in order to see the eyes, nose and mouth ( :-) ;-) ).You can also express anger by writing in capital letters to symbolize a "virtual" shout. But these forms of expression are limited and don't always totally match the way we feel.

But now, with mail agents, boring e-mails are history! A virtual human being can bring your messages to life and shows your mood with the expressions on its face.
Facemail by LifeFX is one of the programs that use virtual humans to read your e-mail. A digital face moves and reacts to the feelings contained in the message (happiness, sadness, anger etc.) exactly like a real human face would, down to the smallest details. Each Facemail virtual human has its own set of expressions, which can be moving, surprising or funny.

Still in the area of moods, Microsoft is currently developing a program known as "Notification Manager". But instead of expressing your mood, it aims to understand how you feel, to help decide whether or not to inform you of the arrival of a new message. The software analyses the expressions on your face using a webcam. From the relaxed look on your face, it deduces that you are available, so it will show you all your mail.

Of course, all the rules of good behaviour still apply to "humanized" messages. Especially since in this case your mood is even more visible and expressive!

The mail agents on AgentLand:


> Description of three categories of agents
Here is the rather picturesque way in which we presented the agent categories on our Web site in 1996. Even if this classification remains generally accurate, many other categories have come into being since.


> Imesh: a successor to Napster
Imesh is a peer-to-peer agent which allows you to share your files and get more directly from the source, from other Internet users' computers As long as they are members of the same sharing community.

> Cli-mate: the Web's frog
What will the weather be like tomorrow? OK, so it's not an existential question, but knowing the answer would help you plan your trips, organize yourself for the week-end or just decide what to wear the next day. Just ask Cli-mate, and it will tell you everything about the weather.


>> Desktop Agents <<

> TeeCee
TeeCee DeskMate is an interactive cartoon character who lives on the Windows desktop. TeeCee reacts if you touch him or move him around the screen with the mouse. If you leave him alone, he will amuse himself and entertain you in the process.

>> Specialized Monitoring agents <<

> AuctionTamer
AuctionTamer, the customized Internet browser with a built-in auction item watch list, has been updated. AuctionTamer makes it easy to use and switch between auction sites, and it now knows the exact end time of a Yahoo! auction. Before it was up to a 30 seconds off. This new version allows you to have multiple instances of AuctionTamer running on the same machine. Many bugs have been also fixed, such as the printing button.

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> Talking Box Pro
Talking Box Pro can read any text in any window: simply select the text you want to be read and copy it into clipboard. Also, Talking Box Pro will check your mail and alert with a message.


> 23rd FIPA meeting
The 23rd meeting of the FIPA (Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents) standards group will be held in Pleasanton, California, USA on October 8-12, 2001.
The main purpose of this meeting is to allow researchers and developers in the field of agents to collaborate in the discussion and production of FIPA specifications.


> The Emotion Machine
The latest book by Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), addresses the motivations that drive the agents in the society of mind. The central idea is that emotion is not different from thinking.
Emotions, in this theory, are our names for the economics and sociology of our mental societies: the mechanisms, regulative forces, and interactions. A number of chapters of the book have been made available before publication on Marvin Minsky's personal web site.

> Introduction to robotics technology
This article by Darrick Addison for IBM DeveloperWorks introduces the field of robotics and the issues surrounding robotic systems. It gives a quick overview to get started in robotics including motors, sensors, power, and software. Darrick Addison also discusses some of the available open source software options.

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