EECS Joint Colloquium Distinguished Lecture Series

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Hewlett Packard Auditorium, 306 Soda Hall
4:00-5:00 p.m.

Professor Barbara J. Grosz

Higgins Professor of Natural Science and Radcliffe Institute Dean of Science
Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University


Collaborative Computer Systems: Prospects and Problems




As a result of the ubiquity of computer networks, computer systems increasingly participate in complex, distributed communities of people and systems, rather than operating as solitary devices employed by a single person. This major shift in the way people use computers has led to a significant challenge for computer science: to determine ways to construct computer systems that are able to act effectively as collaborative team members. Teams may consist solely of computer agents, but often include both systems and people. They may persist over long periods of time, form spontaneously for a single group activity, or come together repeatedly. In this talk, I will briefly review the major features of one model of collaborative planning, SharedPlans (Grosz and Kraus, 1996,1999) and will describe efforts to develop collaborative planning agents and systems for human-computer communication based on this model. The model also provides a framework in which to raise and address fundamental questions about collaboration and the construction of collaboration-capable agents. I will discuss recent approaches to three such problems—commitment management, assessment of alternative courses of action, and group decision- making for recipe selection.


Barbara J. Grosz is Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Dean of Science of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Professor Grosz is the author of several seminal papers in discourse processing and in collaborative systems. She developed the discourse component of several natural-language processing systems, including some of the earliest computer dialogue systems, and is widely regarded as having established the research field of computational modeling of discourse. She has also published papers on natural- language interfaces to databases. Her work on models of collaboration helped established that field of inquiry and provides the framework for several collaborative multi-agent systems. With colleagues at Harvard, she has developed several collaborative interfaces for human-computer communication.

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Prof. Grosz received the UC Berkeley Computer Science and Engineering Distinguished Alumna Award in 1997, the AAAI Distinguished Service Award in 1999, and the IJCAI Donald E. Walker Distinguished Service Award in 2001. She was President of the AAAI, a Member and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence, Inc., Chair of IJCAI-91, and a member of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association. Professor Grosz's research interests include the development of models of collaborative planning for joint human-computer problem-solving, design of collaborative human-computer interfaces, and determining the effects of discourse structure on intonation. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, she was Director of the Natural Language program at SRI International and co-founder of the Center for the Study of Language and Information. Professor Grosz received an A.B. in Mathematics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.