Media Laboratory Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
In most experiments with user interface agents to date, it has been necessary either to implement both the agent and the application from scratch, or to modify the code of an existing application to enable the necessary communication. Instead, we would like to be able to "attach" an agent to an existing application, while requiring only a minimum of advance planning on the part of the application developer. Commercial applications are increasingly supporting the use of "application programmers' interfaces" and scripting languages as mean of achieving external control of applications. Are these mechanisms sufficient for software agents to achieve communication with applications?
This paper reports some preliminary experiments in developing agent software that works with existing, unmodified commercial applications and agents that work across multiple applications. We describe a programming by example agent, ScriptAgent, that uses a scripting language, Applescript, to record example procedures that are generalized by the agent. Another approach is examinability, where the application grants to the agent the right to examine internal data structures. We present another kind of learning agent, Tatlin, that compares successive application states to infer interface operations. Finally, we discuss broader systems issues such as parallelism, interface sharing between agent and application, and access to objects.