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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Phone butler organises your life
A butler
As with a real butler, people come to rely on their mobile organiser
Imagine your very own mobile butler, able to travel with you and organise every aspect of your life from the meetings you have to the restaurants you eat in.

Software, developed by scientists at the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, promises to do just this.

The artificial intelligence program works through mobile phones and is able to determine users' preferences and use the web to plan business and social events.

"I see the artificial agent as a butler-type character," said Professor of Computer Science Nick Jennings.

Getting to know you

And like a real-life butler the relationship between phone agent and user improves as they get to know each other better.

Professor Nick Jennings, University of Southampton
As people see it working and making sensible decisions they become more confident and more willing to delegate to it
Professor Jennings, University of Southampton
"The first day the 'butler' comes to work, he will be very polite as he does not know much about me, but as we begin to work together, he will become better acquainted with my preferences and will make decisions without having to consult me," said Professor Jennings.

The learning algorithms will allow the butler to arrange meetings without the need to consult constantly with the user to establish their requirements.

The phone butler is designed to work with third generation phones that are just coming on the market.

So far the software has just been tested around the university campus.

It is able to arrange times and appointments for meetings, using the local university database, based on the interests of a visitor.

"People are sceptical to start with," said Professor Jennings.

"They want to have the final say but as they see it working and making sensible decisions they become more confident and more willing to delegate to it," he added.

Professor Jennings and his team have established a reputation as leading researchers in the field of artificial intelligence.

Previous projects included designing an electronic travel agent that was able to act in the same way as a high street travel agent, producing the best holidays for clients based on their expressed preferences.

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