Research in the development of a smart chatting agent that would help space experts in retrieving relevant information for their work as well as their everyday life.
A chatting agent, or interactive agent is a computer application which interacts the user in ordinary English language through a text-based messaging service, and provides various information, services, entertainment, etc., depending on its purpose and the directions on the flow of conversations.
The first and perhaps still the most popular multiple-purpose interactive agent is developed by Colloquis, and is called Smarterchild . Based on the success of Smarterchild, a couple of years ago the script language "Buddyscript" was released together with a softwer development kit (SDK) for designing interactive agents devoted to be "expert" in particular areas . The Windows SDK contains an integrated developing environment (IDE) for designing agents in a quick a convenient way. In addition to that, the SDK includes the Buddyscript Server Developer Edition, which can be used to deploy agents for test purposes. The agents are browsing certain (pre-defined) web sources for the requested information, stores them internally in data tables and retrieves them when requested in a user friendly question-answering format. The "knowledge" of the agent is thus determined by the set of these sources. The extraction of information form the target webpages is carried out by looking for the relevant text patterns in the source code of the page.
In the context of space engineering, a chatting agent could behave as "personal assistants" which could significantly help the work of a space expert. In terms of the research support, it could be prepared to present, for example, general information in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology (a nice example could be the periodic table of elements), information and news stored at the ESA web portal, ESA space missions, web databases of satellites, Near-Earth Objects, etc.
In the summer of 2004 the ACT designed, configured and launched a test agent for space engineering. The test agent is called 'PlanetBuddy'; it is able to do small conversations about the planets of the Solar System. The information sources of the agent were the NASA JPL html pages ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/elem_planets.html and ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/phys_props_planets.html, listing the planetary orbital elements and phyiscal properties, respectively.