Electric Elves: Agent Technology for Supporting Human Organizations
The operation of a human organization requires dozens of everyday tasks to ensure coherence in organizational activities, monitor the status of such activities, gather information relevant to the organization, keep everyone in the organization informed, and so on. Teams of software agents can aid humans in accomplishing these tasks, facilitating the organization's coherent functioning and rapid response to crises and reducing the burden on humans. Based on this vision, this article reports on ELECTRIC ELVES, a system that has been operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at our research institute since 1 June 2000. Tied to individual user workstations, fax machines, voice, and mobile devices such as cell phones and palm pilots, ELECTRIC ELVES has assisted us in routine tasks, such as rescheduling meetings, selecting presenters for research meetings, tracking people's locations, organizing lunch meetings, and so on. We discuss the underlying AI technologies that led to the success of ELECTRIC ELVES, including technologies devoted to agent-human interactions, agent coordination, the accessing of multiple heterogeneous information sources, dynamic assignment of organizational tasks, and the deriving of information about organization members. We also report the results of deploying ELECTRIC ELVES in our own research organization.
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