Electric Elves: What Went Wrong and Why

Milind Tambe, Emma Bowring, Jonathan Pearce, Pradeep Varakantham, David Pynadath, Paul Scerri

Software personal assistants continue to be a topic of significant research interest. This paper outlines some of the important lessons learned from a successfully-deployed team of personal assistant agents (Electric Elves) in an office environment. These lessons have important implications for similar on-going research projects.

The Electric Elves project was a team of almost a dozen personal assistant agents which were continually active for seven months. Each elf (agent) represented one person and assisted in daily activities in an actual office environment. This project led to several important observations about privacy, adjustable autonomy, and social norms in office environments. This paper outlines some of the key lessons learned and, more importantly, outlines our continued research to address some of the concerns raised.

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