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Open communication environment for agent-based networked services


Main Objective

The next generation of consumer terminals (such as set-top-boxes and Internet-enabled TVs) needs built-in support for enhanced interactive multimedia services if it is to be acceptable to a mass-market of mainly non-expert users. This implies greater adaptability to individual users as well as more intrinsic intelligence.

At the same time, new visualisation and interaction metaphors, tailored to ordinary people's needs and habits, should be developed for home appliances. These will be different from the approaches used on personal computers, which are better suited to an office environment.

The main objective of OCEANS is to experiment with emerging software agent technologies, which will be embedded as an add-on to ordinary browsing software to support adaptability, intelligence and innovative user interface features.

Technical Approach

Research and development will concentrate on the user terminal. Server and network-related issues will be addressed, but only to the extent of their impact on terminal requirements and architecture.

The suitability of the technologies for different classes of terminals will be investigated, with special focus on innovative home appliances, such as set-top-boxes and Internet-enabled TVs, rather than conventional PCs.

A custom Java-based Web browser will be the basic software platform on the terminal-side. This browser will be extended by agent-support modules. Agent-based applications will be compatible with Web de-facto standards (Hyper Text Markup Language, Java, ECMAScript). Advanced adaptability and inference capabilities will be developed on top of the Java virtual machine, possibly using other source languages.

From the communication point of view, agent-specific protocols will be implemented on top of current remote messaging protocols. These will be based on specifications such as ACL (Agent Communication Language) from the FIPA (Foundation for Intelligent and Physical Agents) standardisation consortium.. Two main scenarios for interactive multimedia services will be targeted: client/server applications and user-to-user applications. Electronic commerce, multi-user games and intelligent information retrieval have been already identified as candidate application areas for OCEANS.

Internet will be the reference platform for the integration and demonstration of emerging and innovative technologies. A smooth transition from current access networks for residential customers (narrowband Internet) to future ones (broadband)will be explored.

Specific project tasks include:

-definition of an architectural framework for agent-based interactive multimedia services, with special emphasis on the user terminal side

-improvement of multimedia services in selected areas with intelligent and adaptive behaviour

-combination of agent technology with 3D graphics for improved usability and user acceptance

-validation of the adopted agent technologies by building a demonstrator

-recommendation on standards for interoperability in agent systems

-support for the Memorandum of Understanding on Multimedia Access to Europe's Cultural Heritage

Summary of Trial

OCEANS mainly focuses on technological issues, hence there are no field trials planned. However, the developed system and applications will be tested on a selected sample of users in specialised usability laboratories.
Expected Achievements

A demonstration platform will be specified and implemented to demonstrate the added value of agent technologies for improving the usability and capability of on-line services and applications. In particular, new agent-support middleware components will be developed and integrated in an innovative Web browser. Moreover, a set of pilot applications, exploiting agent capabilities, will be designed and implemented.

Expected Impact

The results of the project will demonstrate the technical feasibility and user benefits of next-generation software architectures for consumer multimedia terminals designed for a mass-market of non-expert users.

Main contributions to the programme objectives:
Main deliverables
A software agent-based system aiming at enhancing the ordinary browsing software of user terminals to support adaptable, intelligent and innovative user interface features
Contribution to the programme
Contribute to specification of open communications environment for interactive multimedia services
Key Issues

-the developed technologies have to provide real usability and capability improvements to on-line services, such as infotainment and electronic commerce, which appear to have mass market potential

-the additional software components required for agent support have to meet the cost and performance constraints of the target home appliances

-a pragmatic and evolutionary approach is taken. The current Internet infrastructure is assumed to be the main platform for both demonstrations and exploitation; Broadband Internet access will increase the quality of the agent-based services, but will not require changes to the agent software developed by OCEANS

-emerging standards in agent-related areas will be evaluated and endorsed whenever suitable according to market trends and the project objectives. The project partners will provide feedback to the relevant standardisation bodies

-relationships will be established and maintained with other agent-related projects in the ACTS Programme notably with the ACTS Domain 5 Agent Cluster,

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


20019 Milanoo

Participants (3)

Tullastr. 72
79108 München
United Kingdom
South Kensington Campus