January, 25 Email from Martin van Velsen

My name is Martin van Velsen and I work for Katia Sycara in her
intelligent software agents Lab. Joe asked me to design a few
mockups of possible visualizations for CoAX. Chances are I'm missing
some information so please let me know if there should be some
changes in the functionality. As far as I understand the task at
hand, we are talking about a visualization that can:
  • Visualize agent states and their interaction with other agents
  • Visualize agent groups/communities/societies
  • Visualize the rights/permissions of an agent to be part of one or more groups
  • Visually indicate if an agent is allowed to migrate to a different group
In thinking of possible visualizations, I came up with a design rationale. Let me describe the steps I've taken so far. In RETSINA we experimented with a number of visualization techniques. We started out with a 3D approach wherein agents were portrayed as abstract animated objects. This aproach although visually pleasing did not provide a user with a good overview since no matter what the viewing angle was there would always be agents outside the current view. We then took a step back and used the familiar windows icon desktop as a basis for a new visualizer. This is what we now call the DemoDisplay. A colleague of mine Sean Owens built an alternative version of this application where messages passed between agents, would caused the agent-icons to move closer towards another. This visualization is very effective in showing relationships. However examining individual agents is more difficult. I used an existing application that will be taking over from our DemoDisplay agent to create a mockup of what might be a visualizer that can perform the tasks itemized above. It uses color/brightness enhanced nested viewports to show communities. An additional infopane in this viewport can be folded out to obtain more information about the community. Agents (icons) can be dragged and dropped from one viewport (community) to another. The proposed application can be seen as a mockup in the attachedment called 'mockup.jpg'. This image was based on a powerpoint slide I was given to use as a template. In the image you can see more than the mockup of a community visualization. The application in the screenshot is our Interface Agent. As such it is primarily designed to connect an agent's output to an interface. The community visualization one aspect of the interface that functions as an agent desktop. In the image you will see an brief overview of what each control does. We do not show the actual interface window since that is outside the scope of this task in CoAX. However I will be more than happy to answer any questions on this topic. I've attached another screenshot with annotations to give a better overview of what this application does. See also: - 2s-1.jpg 2-dimensional agent society layout with interoperators - 2s-a1.jpg 2-dimensional agent society layout, large systems - 3s-1.jpg 3-dimensional cluster-cones to display agent groups - 3s-2.jpg 3-dimensional cluster-cubes to display agent groups - 3s-2a.jpg 3-dimensional cluster-cubes to display agent groups, showing active agents. In the 3-dimensional mockups you can see Interoperators in between the agent clusters. In the two dimensional version one would be able to see interoperators between viewports. Martin


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