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Blog: Contrasting Chatbots and Intelligent Virtual Assistants Intelligent Virtual Assistants for Customer Engagement Sales AI Assistants Conversica


When attending trade shows and conferences supporting Conversica, a question I am frequently asked is whether Conversica's Intelligent Virtual Assistant for customer engagement is "a chatbot." And while I can understand the source of the question, I emphatically stress that Conversica is not a chatbot. A more cynical reader might assume that this differentiation is little more than branding. But I can assure you there are very real differences between what the Conversica Sales AI Assistant offers and what chatbot providers deliver. Each technology has its place and purpose, but neither is synonymous with the other.

Global Belief Recursive Neural Networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recursive Neural Networks have recently obtained state of the art performance on several natural language processing tasks. However, because of their feedforward architecture they cannot correctly predict phrase or word labels that are determined by context. This is a problem in tasks such as aspect-specific sentiment classification which tries to, for instance, predict that the word Android is positive in the sentence Android beats iOS. We introduce global belief recursive neural networks (GB-RNNs) which are based on the idea of extending purely feedforward neural networks to include one feedbackward step during inference. This allows phrase level predictions and representations to give feedback to words.

Learning to Specialize with Knowledge Distillation for Visual Question Answering

Neural Information Processing Systems

Visual Question Answering (VQA) is a notoriously challenging problem because it involves various heterogeneous tasks defined by questions within a unified framework. Learning specialized models for individual types of tasks is intuitively attracting but surprisingly difficult; it is not straightforward to outperform naive independent ensemble approach. We present a principled algorithm to learn specialized models with knowledge distillation under a multiple choice learning (MCL) framework, where training examples are assigned dynamically to a subset of models for updating network parameters. The assigned and non-assigned models are learned to predict ground-truth answers and imitate their own base models before specialization, respectively. Our approach alleviates the limitation of data deficiency in existing MCL frameworks, and allows each model to learn its own specialized expertise without forgetting general knowledge.

A Novel Two-Step Method for Cross Language Representation Learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

Cross language text classification is an important learning task in natural language processing. A critical challenge of cross language learning lies in that words of different languages are in disjoint feature spaces. In this paper, we propose a two-step representation learning method to bridge the feature spaces of different languages by exploiting a set of parallel bilingual documents. Specifically, we first formulate a matrix completion problem to produce a complete parallel document-term matrix for all documents in two languages, and then induce a cross-lingual document representation by applying latent semantic indexing on the obtained matrix. We use a projected gradient descent algorithm to solve the formulated matrix completion problem with convergence guarantees.

Layer-Wise Coordination between Encoder and Decoder for Neural Machine Translation

Neural Information Processing Systems

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) has achieved remarkable progress with the quick evolvement of model structures. In this paper, we propose the concept of layer-wise coordination for NMT, which explicitly coordinates the learning of hidden representations of the encoder and decoder together layer by layer, gradually from low level to high level. Specifically, we design a layer-wise attention and mixed attention mechanism, and further share the parameters of each layer between the encoder and decoder to regularize and coordinate the learning. Experiments show that combined with the state-of-the-art Transformer model, layer-wise coordination achieves improvements on three IWSLT and two WMT translation tasks. More specifically, our method achieves 34.43 and 29.01 BLEU score on WMT16 English-Romanian and WMT14 English-German tasks, outperforming the Transformer baseline.

Submodular meets Structured: Finding Diverse Subsets in Exponentially-Large Structured Item Sets

Neural Information Processing Systems

To cope with the high level of ambiguity faced in domains such as Computer Vision or Natural Language processing, robust prediction methods often search for a diverse set of high-quality candidate solutions or proposals. In structured prediction problems, this becomes a daunting task, as the solution space (image labelings, sentence parses, etc.) is exponentially large. We study greedy algorithms for finding a diverse subset of solutions in structured-output spaces by drawing new connections between submodular functions over combinatorial item sets and High-Order Potentials (HOPs) studied for graphical models. Specifically, we show via examples that when marginal gains of submodular diversity functions allow structured representations, this enables efficient (sub-linear time) approximate maximization by reducing the greedy augmentation step to inference in a factor graph with appropriately constructed HOPs. We discuss benefits, tradeoffs, and show that our constructions lead to significantly better proposals.

Lexical and Hierarchical Topic Regression

Neural Information Processing Systems

Inspired by a two-level theory that unifies agenda setting and ideological framing, we propose supervised hierarchical latent Dirichlet allocation (SHLDA) which jointly captures documents' multi-level topic structure and their polar response variables. Our model extends the nested Chinese restaurant process to discover a tree-structured topic hierarchy and uses both per-topic hierarchical and per-word lexical regression parameters to model the response variables. Experiments in a political domain and on sentiment analysis tasks show that SHLDA improves predictive accuracy while adding a new dimension of insight into how topics under discussion are framed. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.

A Multiplicative Model for Learning Distributed Text-Based Attribute Representations

Neural Information Processing Systems

In this paper we propose a general framework for learning distributed representations of attributes: characteristics of text whose representations can be jointly learned with word embeddings. Attributes can correspond to a wide variety of concepts, such as document indicators (to learn sentence vectors), language indicators (to learn distributed language representations), meta-data and side information (such as the age, gender and industry of a blogger) or representations of authors. We describe a third-order model where word context and attribute vectors interact multiplicatively to predict the next word in a sequence. This leads to the notion of conditional word similarity: how meanings of words change when conditioned on different attributes. We perform several experimental tasks including sentiment classification, cross-lingual document classification, and blog authorship attribution.

Efficient Optimization for Average Precision SVM

Neural Information Processing Systems

The accuracy of information retrieval systems is often measured using average precision (AP). Given a set of positive (relevant) and negative (non-relevant) samples, the parameters of a retrieval system can be estimated using the AP-SVM framework, which minimizes a regularized convex upper bound on the empirical AP loss. However, the high computational complexity of loss-augmented inference, which is required for learning an AP-SVM, prohibits its use with large training datasets. To alleviate this deficiency, we propose three complementary approaches. The second approach takes advantage of the fact that we do not require a full ranking during loss-augmented inference.

Diffusion Maps for Textual Network Embedding

Neural Information Processing Systems

Textual network embedding leverages rich text information associated with the network to learn low-dimensional vectorial representations of vertices. Rather than using typical natural language processing (NLP) approaches, recent research exploits the relationship of texts on the same edge to graphically embed text. However, these models neglect to measure the complete level of connectivity between any two texts in the graph. We present diffusion maps for textual network embedding (DMTE), integrating global structural information of the graph to capture the semantic relatedness between texts, with a diffusion-convolution operation applied on the text inputs. In addition, a new objective function is designed to efficiently preserve the high-order proximity using the graph diffusion.