Putting the magic in the machine since 1980.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ongoing Research Projects

Every year our department has 7-minute madness presentations in which we faculty present our ongoing research. It is a great opportunity to hear about all the innovative research going on in our department (especially in the area of multiagent systems, of course :-). The slides from my 7-minute talk are below.

For those of you who could not make it, and since I ran out of time after just a couple of slides, I write a bit about each project below.

We have a lot of papers published on distributed combinatorial auctions, especially on bidding algorithms for the PAUSE auction. This work was done with Benito Mendoza who received his PhD in May and is now working at Exxon on multiagent simulations. I continue to work on this topic but with a slightly different focus: viewing these distributed auctions as negotiation networks.

The iCoach project is with prof. Sara Wilcox from the department of exercise science. Chuck Burris, and undergraduate, has been developing on the Google App Engine a webapp that will send customized SMS messages to users by first gathering information from the user's phone, pedometer, and online information (where he is, via GPS, how much he has moved, via pedomenter or accelerometer, what his plans are, via his google calendar, etc.). There is a lot of information about us on the net, and the new smartphones will give us even more. However, aside from collecting and displaying this information back to the user in a pretty graph, there has been very little research done in to how to use this information to improve our lives. That is what we study. Our initial system is being designed to monitor, educate, and coach first-time pregnant women.

The wikitheoria is another Google App Engine webapp we are building, and by "we" I mean Jon Mayhak and Jason Rikard. The project is with prof. Barry Markovsky from the Sociology department and can be summarized as "wikepdia meets stackoverflow for sociologists, with added semantic structure". Our goal is to build a site that will enable and encourage sociologists to post their models using a common ontology (set of terms with agreed-upon definitions). The common ontology will also be developed on the site. The current site is currently being tested by forcing a graduate class of sociologists to use it.

The port simulation project is very new and its joint work with prof. Nathan Huynh from the department of Civil Engineering. Nathan is an expert in ports and trucking problems. In our initial collaboration we are looking at the problem of how the crane operators in a port should act or cooperate. The job of a crane operator is to pick up those big containers, one at a time, and put them on the trucks as the trucks arrive. The containers can be stacked up so sometimes the crane operators have to do some re-stacking of the containers, which wastes a lot of time. We are building an agent-based simulation of this problem and trying to find best strategies for the operators.

Andrew Smith is a new PhD student who has already written a paper on supply chain resiliency. Using standard models of supply-chain formation we generated sample chains and then tested these topologies for resiliency to single-point attacks. That is, if one node goes down how does that affect the network as a whole. In the paper (not yet published) we present a numerical measure of resiliency and our test results show how it varies given the number of relationship resources (a measure of sociability) and size.

Andrew is also continuing his work with Karim Mahrous from Sandia National Labs on media dispersion and influence as part of his PhD thesis. This is another agent-based modeling project, albeit a much larger one for which we only have to develop small parts of the code, which aims to model how news travels in a social network. The project will cover everything from broadcast media, to multicast media (twitter), to one-on-one via electronic (SMS) or good ol fashioned conversations over lunch.

So, if you are a graduate student and find these ideas interesting, you can sign up for my Multiagent Systems class in the Spring which will cover the basic background knowledge needed to build, and understand, multiagent systems. If you are from a funding agency or company with a few bucks to spare for research, I would love to hear from you!