MS Agent in ToolBook


We have all seen the cute little Microsoft Agent Characters, but what exactly are they and how can you use them in your ToolBook applications?

What is the Microsoft Agent?

(Excerpt from

Microsoft® Agent is a set of programmable software services that supports the presentation of interactive animated characters within the Microsoft Windows® interface. Developers can use characters as interactive assistants to introduce, guide, entertain, or otherwise enhance their Web pages or applications in addition to the conventional use of windows, menus, and controls.

Microsoft Agent enables software developers and Web authors to incorporate a new form of user interaction, known as conversational interfaces, that leverages natural aspects of human social communication. In addition to mouse and keyboard input, Microsoft Agent includes optional support for speech recognition so applications can respond to voice commands. Characters can respond using synthesized speech, recorded audio, or text in a cartoon word balloon.

The conversational interface approach facilitated by the Microsoft Agent services does not replace conventional graphical user interface (GUI) design. Instead, character interaction can be easily blended with the conventional interface components such as windows, menus, and controls to extend and enhance your application's interface.

How Can You Use MS Agent in Your ToolBook Project?

There are lots of ways that you can use the MS Agent in your ToolBook project.  Many ToolBook Developers are already doing just that.  Probably one of the most well known uses of the agent in a ToolBook project is with the Platte Canyon Learning and Mastering ToolBook CD-ROM Training program.  In that program the Agent guides the learner through the training, introducing key concepts and reminding the learner to complete interactive activities. 

Because the Agent can also perform text to speech recognition some developers are using the agent as a narrator instead of having professional audio recorded.  While text to speech engines still aren't human voice quality, they are getting closer and are worth considering if you use a lot of audio in your programs.  There is an even bigger advantage if you translate your programs into other languages.  Because the agent reads the text, if you have the text translated and then you get a text to speech engine in the language of the translation, translations with audio will be easy to achieve.


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