imageWith a reported 5 billion internet users, access to communication technologies has reached unprecedented levels and has made computational systems an interwoven feature of everyday life across the globe. Computational devices monitor our health, entertain us, guide us and keep us safe and secure. We are now
massively interconnected via digital means, we routinely rely on computational devices and we increasingly invoke smart services residing in a global “cloud” infrastructure.

However, this explosive growth in connectivity, devices and online services is only a precursor to an “era of ubiquity,” where each of us will become increasingly dependent upon a plethora of smart and proactive computers that we carry with us, access at home and at work, and that are embedded into the world around us.  These smart services will increasingly act on our behalf and negotiate with other users and smart services.

The orchid project is interested in what happens when each of us live in a world were we routinely interact with collections of on-line users and smart software agents. These arrangements of software agents and online users may be exploited in a broad set of contexts. For example, they may gather information of wearable sensors to monitor our health and contact medical professionals on our behalf. They may track the routes and activities of emergency personnel and coordinate with other systems and personnel  to ensure an effective response to accidents and disasters.

We are particularly interested in the how humans and software agents will continually and flexibly establish a range of collaborative relationships with one another to form human-agent collectives (HACs). As this human-agent collectives grow in scale and complexity we will need to understand how these systems might behave are establish principles to guide their design and construction.  We need to understand both the computational and human aspects of these systems if we are to avoid developments that are unsafe, unreliable and lack the appropriate safeguards to ensure societal acceptance.

ORCHID brings together academic groups from the Universities of Southampton, Oxford and Nottingham (with multi-disciplinary expertise in the areas of artificial intelligence, agent-based computing, machine learning, decentralised information systems, participatory systems, and ubiquitous computing) to collectively establish the foundational scientific underpinnings of these systems . The work will be driven be developing and understanding the use of human agent collectives in the critical domains of future energy networks, and disaster response.

More information at the Orchid website.