Trial by Fire: Understanding the Design Requirements for Agents in Complex Environments

  • Paul R. Cohen
  • Michael L. Greenberg
  • David M. Hart
  • Adele E. Howe


Phoenix is a real-time, adaptive planner that manages forest fires in a simulated environment. Alternatively, Phoenix is a search for functional relationships between the designs of agents, their behaviors, and the environments in which they work. In fact, both characterizations are appropriate and together exemplify a research methodology that emphasizes complex, dynamic environments and complete, autonomous agents. Within the Phoenix system, we empirically explore the constraints the environment places on the design of intelligent agents. This article describes the underlying methodology and illustrates the architecture and behavior of Phoenix agents.