Hermes: goal-oriented interactions for intelligent agents

Cheong, C 2008, Hermes: goal-oriented interactions for intelligent agents, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Computer Science and Information Technology, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Hermes: goal-oriented interactions for intelligent agents
Author(s) Cheong, C
Year 2008
Abstract Intelligent agents are goal-oriented software entities which exhibit a number of desirable characteristics, such as flexibility and robustness, which are suitable for complex, dynamic, and failure-prone environments. However, these characteristics of individual agents are not exhibited by their interactions with each other since traditional approaches to interaction design are message-centric, and these message-centric approaches force the intelligent agents to follow prescribed message sequences in order to achieve their interactions, thus usually resulting in interactions which have limited flexibility and robustness.

In this thesis an alternative to the traditional message-centric interaction design approaches is presented. In this approach, the interactions are designed based on interaction goals, and message sequences are not prescribed. Instead, message sequences emerge from the interactions as the intelligent agents attempt to achieve the interaction goals.

The main contribution of this work is Hermes, a methodology for the design and implementation of goal-oriented interactions. An important motivation for Hermes is to not only allow for the design and implementation of goal-oriented interactions, but to also be pragmatic and usable by practicing software engineers. To that end, Hermes has a clear and guided design process with a notation explicitly created for the design of goal-oriented interactions. Furthermore, Hermes, which covers the design and implementation of agent interactions only, has been integrated with Prometheus, a full agent system design methodology. Guidelines for the integration are provided so that, in future, Hermes may also be integrated with other existing methodologies if desired.

Hermes also provides guidelines for mapping its design artifacts to an implementation. As Hermes is goal-oriented, the implementation platform should be one that is goal-based. The guidelines help developers map the design to skeleton code. This contributes to the pragmatism of Hermes.

To further ensure that Hermes is pragmatic, two prototype software support tools have been developed. The design support tool allows for the graphical design of Hermes artifacts and the implementation support tool produces skeleton code for the Jadex agent platform based on a structured textual representation of Hermes design artifacts. Although only the Jadex agent platform is currently supported, the implementation tool can be extended to accommodate other goal-based agent platforms.

An empirical evaluation was carried out, and its results show that Hermes designs are significantly more flexible and robust than message-centric designs, although more time is required to design Hermes interactions. This suggests that Hermes is suitable for interactions which are complex and/or error-prone.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Computer Science and Information Technology
Keyword(s) Intelligent agents (Computer software)
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