The increased scope and complexity of tasks that people perform as part of their routine work has led to growing interest in the development of intelligent personal assistive agents that can aid a human in managing and performing tasks. As part of their operation, such agents should be able to anticipate user needs, opportunities, and problems, and then act on their own initiative to address them. We characterize the properties desired for proactive behaviour of this type, and present a BDI-based agent cognition model designed to support proactive assistance. Our model for proactive assistance employs a meta-level layer to identify potentially helpful actions and determine when it is appropriate to perform them. We conclude by identifying technical challenges in developing systems that embody proactive behaviours.
Neil Yorke-Smith is a Computer Scientist at SRI's Artificial Intelligence Center. His research focuses on technologies that assist human decision making, with interests including planning and scheduling, preferences, advisable agents, intelligent user interfaces, and constraint programming, and their real-world applications. He received his Ph.D. from Imperial College London in 2004. Publications and further information are available at: http://www.ai.sri.com/~nysmith