Machine-learning based dialogue managers are able to learn complex behaviors in order to complete a task, but it is not straightforward to extend their capabilities to new domains. We investigate different policies' ability to handle uncooperative user behavior, and how well expertise in completing one task (such as restaurant reservations) can be reapplied when learning a new one (e.g. booking a hotel). We introduce the Recurrent Embedding Dialogue Policy (REDP), which embeds system actions and dialogue states in the same vector space. REDP contains a memory component and attention mechanism based on a modified Neural Turing Machine, and significantly outperforms a baseline LSTM classifier on this task. We also show that both our architecture and baseline solve the bAbI dialogue task, achieving 100% test accuracy.
Developing conversational agents to engage in complex dialogues is challenging partly because the dialogue policy needs to explore a large state-action space. In this paper, we propose a divide-and-conquer approach that discovers and exploits the hidden structure of the task to enable efficient policy learning. First, given a set of successful dialogue sessions, we present a Subgoal Discovery Network (SDN) to divide a complex goal-oriented task into a set of simpler subgoals in an unsupervised fashion. We then use these subgoals to learn a hierarchical policy which consists of 1) a top-level policy that selects among subgoals, and 2) a low-level policy that selects primitive actions to accomplish the subgoal. We exemplify our method by building a dialogue agent for the composite task of travel planning. Experiments with simulated and real users show that an agent trained with automatically discovered subgoals performs competitively against an agent with human-defined subgoals, and significantly outperforms an agent without subgoals. Moreover, we show that learned subgoals are human comprehensible.
Task-oriented dialogue systems are either modularized with separate dialogue state tracking (DST) and management steps or end-to-end trainable. In either case, the knowledge base (KB) plays an essential role in fulfilling user requests. Modularized systems rely on DST to interact with the KB, which is expensive in terms of annotation and inference time. End-to-end systems use the KB directly as input, but they cannot scale when the KB is larger than a few hundred entries. In this paper, we propose a method to embed the KB, of any size, directly into the model parameters. The resulting model does not require any DST or template responses, nor the KB as input, and it can dynamically update its KB via fine-tuning. We evaluate our solution in five task-oriented dialogue datasets with small, medium, and large KB size. Our experiments show that end-to-end models can effectively embed knowledge bases in their parameters and achieve competitive performance in all evaluated datasets.
This paper introduces the Ubuntu Dialogue Corpus, a dataset containing almost 1 million multi-turn dialogues, with a total of over 7 million utterances and 100 million words. This provides a unique resource for research into building dialogue managers based on neural language models that can make use of large amounts of unlabeled data. The dataset has both the multi-turn property of conversations in the Dialog State Tracking Challenge datasets, and the unstructured nature of interactions from microblog services such as Twitter. We also describe two neural learning architectures suitable for analyzing this dataset, and provide benchmark performance on the task of selecting the best next response.
This paper describes a novel method by which a spoken dialogue system can learn to choose an optimal dialogue strategy from its experience interacting with human users. The method is based on a combination of reinforcement learning and performance modeling of spoken dialogue systems. The reinforcement learning component applies Q-learning (Watkins, 1989), while the performance modeling component applies the PARADISE evaluation framework (Walker et al., 1997) to learn the performance function (reward) used in reinforcement learning. We illustrate the method with a spoken dialogue system named ELVIS (EmaiL Voice Interactive System), that supports access to email over the phone. We conduct a set of experiments for training an optimal dialogue strategy on a corpus of 219 dialogues in which human users interact with ELVIS over the phone. We then test that strategy on a corpus of 18 dialogues. We show that ELVIS can learn to optimize its strategy selection for agent initiative, for reading messages, and for summarizing email folders.