Michelle Hoyle and Christopher Lueg (1997).
Open Sesame!: A Look at Personal Assistants
In: Proceedings of the International Conference on the Practical Application of Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Technology (PAAM'97) pp. 51-60. London, UK, April 21 - 23, 1997

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Software agents, or softbots, are supposedly intelligent programs that assist the user in performing repetitive, boring, and time-consuming tasks. An overview of software agents, with special attention focused on the so-called personal assistants, is presented as an introduction. Following that, an in-depth look at one of the first commercially available intelligent agents Open Sesame!, a personal assistant for managing the Macintosh desktop environment, is presented. The existing intelligent agent paradigms, we argue, break down when it comes to actively helping the end user because of flaws inherent in the current approaches to intelligent agent design. To that end, we discuss the reasons why this is, particularly with respect to Open Sesame!, and promote the notion of situatedness to be taken into account more seriously for developing software agents that actively support the user for the duration of the task at hand. As an example for a more situated approach to personal assistant design, a quick overview of a project to develop a personal assistant for news filtering is discussed.

Christopher Lueg / revised 16/06/97