When dealing with large, distributed systems that use state-of-the-art components, individual components are usually developed in parallel. As development continues, the decoupling invariably leads to a mismatch between how these components internally represent concepts and how they communicate these representations to other components: representations can get out of synch, contain localized errors, or become manageable only by a small group of experts for each module. In this paper, we describe the use of an ontology as part of a complex distributed virtual human architecture in order to enable better communication between modules while improving the overall flexibility needed to change or extend the system. We focus on the natural language understanding capabilities of this architecture and the relationship between language and concepts within the entire system in general and the ontology in particular.
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