Interface Agents in Model World Environments

  • Robert St. Amant
  • R. Michael Young


Choosing an environment is an important decision for agent developers. A key issue in this decision is whether the environment will provide realistic problems for the agent to solve, in the sense that the problems are true to the issues that arise in addressing a particular research question. In addition to realism, other important issues include how tractable problems are that can be formulated in the environment, how easy agent performance can be measured, and whether the environment can be customized or extended for specific research questions. In the ideal environment, researchers can pose realistic but tractable problems to an agent, measure and evaluate its performance, and iteratively rework the environment to explore increasingly ambitious questions, all at a reasonable cost in time and effort. As might be expected, trade-offs dominate the suitability of an environment; however, we have found that the modern graphic user interface offers a good balance among these trade-offs. This article takes a brief tour of agent research in the user interface, showing how significant questions related to vision, planning, learning, cognition, and communication are currently being addressed.