Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 5-53

First online:

The dMARS Architecture: A Specification of the Distributed Multi-Agent Reasoning System

  • Mark D'InvernoAffiliated withCavendish School of Computer Science, University of Westminster
  • , Michael LuckAffiliated withSchool of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton
  • , Michael GeorgeffAffiliated withFaculty of Information Technology Monash University
  • , David KinnyAffiliated withAgentis Software
  • , Michael WooldridgeAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Liverpool

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The Procedural Reasoning System (PRS) is the best established agent architecture currently available. It has been deployed in many major industrial applications, ranging from fault diagnosis on the space shuttle to air traffic management and business process control. The theory of PRS-like systems has also been widely studied: within the intelligent agents research community, the belief-desire-intention (BDI) model of practical reasoning that underpins PRS is arguably the dominant force in the theoretical foundations of rational agency. Despite the interest in PRS and BDI agents, no complete attempt has yet been made to precisely specify the behaviour of real PRS systems. This has led to the development of a range of systems that claim to conform to the PRS model, but which differ from it in many important respects. Our aim in this paper is to rectify this omission. We provide an abstract formal model of an idealised dMARS system (the most recent implementation of the PRS architecture), which precisely defines the key data structures present within the architecture and the operations that manipulate these structures. We focus in particular on dMARS plans, since these are the key tool for programming dMARS agents. The specification we present will enable other implementations of PRS to be easily developed, and will serve as a benchmark against which future architectural enhancements can be evaluated.

agent architectures procedural reasoning system BDI formal specification