REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 8, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the release of Microsoft® Agent, now available for free download (connect-time charges may apply). Agent provides an easy-to-program technology that supports animated interactive characters, enabling developers to enhance the interfaces of their Web pages or desktop applications to make more use of the natural ways people communicate.
By supporting software actors, applications can include highly interactive personalities that guide, assist or entertain users using social cues such as gestures and facial expressions. Agent’s services allow users to interact with characters using the keyboard or the mouse. Developers can also include optional support for speech input and speech output, to provide more conversational interfaces that are more appealing, approachable and intuitive.
“Microsoft Agent represents Microsoft’s continued commitment to enhancing the way people work with their computers,” said Tandy Trower, director of the advanced user interfaces group at Microsoft. “This release demonstrates how we are evolving our user interface in ways that can enhance communication between users and their software based on the ways people naturally interact.”
Based on ActiveX
technologies, Microsoft Agent’s services can be programmed from any language that supports ActiveX – including C++, Java
“Microsoft Agent opens the gate for a new breed of applications for the Web and the desktop,” said Dov Weizman, president, Argo Technologies Inc. “Agent finally elevates the user interface one important leap ahead by augmenting, emphasizing and enabling the true social nature of interacting with a computer. It does this by effectively using animated conversational characters and by integrating programmable animation, voice output and voice recognition seamlessly.”
Microsoft Agent also includes a cast of sample characters with a library of gestures and animations that can be easily downloaded to users’ machines. Agent also includes tools that enable developers to compile their own characters and provide automatic lip-sync support.
“I’ve been working with Agent to develop our own friendly interactive character,” said Nathan Dickerson, director of Agent development at EducationX. “We realize one of the best things we can do to create an effective educational site is to provide interaction that will make people think. We are working to make an agent explain certain content, particularly in the chemistry section, and our Agent tutor will also be able to ask a user questions, just like a real teacher can.”
Microsoft Agent is a natural fit for Web site developers who want to add animated, interactive characters to their Web sites to make them more compelling. By combining Agent with the award-winning Internet Explorer 3.0 and 4.0 Web browsers, developers can deliver a new level of user interaction on Internet and intranet Web sites. In addition to being immediately available from the Microsoft Web site, Microsoft Agent will also be included as an add-on component in the upcoming Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 release, scheduled to be available Sept. 30. Microsoft Agent will also be included in the Microsoft Internet Software Development Kit.
The Microsoft Agent Web site includes full programming documentation as well as code samples. The new software is available now for free (connect-time charges may apply) from Microsoft’s Site Builder Network at http://msdn.microsoft/workshop/prog/agent/ .
The recommended system configuration for running Microsoft Agent is a Pentium 100 MHz computer with 16 MB of RAM, running the Microsoft Windows® 95 or Microsoft Windows NT® 4.0 operating system. A Windows-compatible sound card, speakers and microphone are recommended when Microsoft Agent is used with the Microsoft Command and Control speech recognition engine and the special version of the Lernout & Hauspie TruVoice Text-To-Speech engine, which can also be downloaded from the site. The technology can also be used with other compatible engines that comply with the Microsoft Speech API.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
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