Proactive and Reactive Agents in User Interface

Ted Selker, User System Ergonomics Research (USER), IBM Almaden Research Center

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 6, 1994


Agents of various sorts have been described in respect to cognition and computers for decades. The pandemonium of agents in models of how we think and AI robots making decisions have taken the sidelines to the compelling notions of user helper Agents. The computing industry is becoming obsessed with both user interface agents which support learning and using computer tools as well as investigative agents which can roam around collecting things of importance to a user.

This talk will outline techniques and strategies styles and power of different approaches to agents people are considering. We will also describe agents we have been experimenting with and the ways in which we find them valuable as assistants and as advisors.


Ted Selker is Manager of User System Ergonomics Research (USER) at IBM Almaden Research Center. His work focuses on developing new paradigms for using computers: The COACH research system demonstrates the use of adaptive user models in help/tutoring environments. The VREP project is developing a "linguistics" for the use of graphic techniques in computer interfaces. He also developed IBM's Trackpoint II, anintegrated pointing device with performance advantages derived from a special behavioral/motor match algorithm. Previously, Dr. Selker has conducted research at Xerox PARC, Atari, and the Robotics Laboratory at Stanford University.


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