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Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning for Open-Domain Dialog Artificial Intelligence

Open-domain dialog generation is a challenging problem; maximum likelihood training can lead to repetitive outputs, models have difficulty tracking long-term conversational goals, and training on standard movie or online datasets may lead to the generation of inappropriate, biased, or offensive text. Reinforcement Learning (RL) is a powerful framework that could potentially address these issues, for example by allowing a dialog model to optimize for reducing toxicity and repetitiveness. However, previous approaches which apply RL to open-domain dialog generation do so at the word level, making it difficult for the model to learn proper credit assignment for long-term conversational rewards. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to hierarchical reinforcement learning, VHRL, which uses policy gradients to tune the utterance-level embedding of a variational sequence model. This hierarchical approach provides greater flexibility for learning long-term, conversational rewards. We use self-play and RL to optimize for a set of human-centered conversation metrics, and show that our approach provides significant improvements -- in terms of both human evaluation and automatic metrics -- over state-of-the-art dialog models, including Transformers.

Towards Coherent and Engaging Spoken Dialog Response Generation Using Automatic Conversation Evaluators Artificial Intelligence

Encoder-decoder based neural architectures serve as the basis of state-of-the-art approaches in end-to-end open domain dialog systems. Since most of such systems are trained with a maximum likelihood(MLE) objective they suffer from issues such as lack of generalizability and the generic response problem, i.e., a system response that can be an answer to a large number of user utterances, e.g., "Maybe, I don't know." Having explicit feedback on the relevance and interestingness of a system response at each turn can be a useful signal for mitigating such issues and improving system quality by selecting responses from different approaches. Towards this goal, we present a system that evaluates chatbot responses at each dialog turn for coherence and engagement. Our system provides explicit turn-level dialog quality feedback, which we show to be highly correlated with human evaluation. To show that incorporating this feedback in the neural response generation models improves dialog quality, we present two different and complementary mechanisms to incorporate explicit feedback into a neural response generation model: reranking and direct modification of the loss function during training. Our studies show that a response generation model that incorporates these combined feedback mechanisms produce more engaging and coherent responses in an open-domain spoken dialog setting, significantly improving the response quality using both automatic and human evaluation.

10 Important Research Papers In Conversational AI From 2019


Conversational AI is becoming an integral part of business practice across industries. More companies are adopting the advantages chatbots bring to customer service, sales, and marketing. Even though chatbots are becoming a "must-have" asset for leading businesses, their performance is still very far from human. Researchers from major research institutions and tech leaders have explored ways to boost the performance of dialog systems by increasing the diversity of their responses, enabling emotion recognition, improving their ability to track long-term aspects of the conversation, ensuring the maintenance of a consistent persona, etc. We've searched through important conversational AI research papers published in 2019 to present you the top 10 that set the new state-of-the-art in both task-oriented and open-domain dialog systems. Subscribe to our AI Research mailing list at the bottom of this article to be alerted when we release new summaries.

NEXUS Network: Connecting the Preceding and the Following in Dialogue Generation Artificial Intelligence

Sequence-to-Sequence (seq2seq) models have become overwhelmingly popular in building end-to-end trainable dialogue systems. Though highly efficient in learning the backbone of human-computer communications, they suffer from the problem of strongly favoring short generic responses. In this paper, we argue that a good response should smoothly connect both the preceding dialogue history and the following conversations. We strengthen this connection through mutual information maximization. To sidestep the non-differentiability of discrete natural language tokens, we introduce an auxiliary continuous code space and map such code space to a learnable prior distribution for generation purpose. Experiments on two dialogue datasets validate the effectiveness of our model, where the generated responses are closely related to the dialogue context and lead to more interactive conversations.

Way Off-Policy Batch Deep Reinforcement Learning of Implicit Human Preferences in Dialog Artificial Intelligence

Most deep reinforcement learning (RL) systems are not able to learn effectively from off-policy data, especially if they cannot explore online in the environment. These are critical shortcomings for applying RL to real-world problems where collecting data is expensive, and models must be tested offline before being deployed to interact with the environment -- e.g. systems that learn from human interaction. Thus, we develop a novel class of off-policy batch RL algorithms, which are able to effectively learn offline, without exploring, from a fixed batch of human interaction data. We leverage models pre-trained on data as a strong prior, and use KL-control to penalize divergence from this prior during RL training. We also use dropout-based uncertainty estimates to lower bound the target Q-values as a more efficient alternative to Double Q-Learning. The algorithms are tested on the problem of open-domain dialog generation -- a challenging reinforcement learning problem with a 20,000-dimensional action space. Using our Way Off-Policy algorithm, we can extract multiple different reward functions post-hoc from collected human interaction data, and learn effectively from all of these. We test the real-world generalization of these systems by deploying them live to converse with humans in an open-domain setting, and demonstrate that our algorithm achieves significant improvements over prior methods in off-policy batch RL.