User Simulators are one of the major tools that enable offline training of task-oriented dialogue systems. For this task the Agenda-Based User Simulator (ABUS) is often used. The ABUS is based on hand-crafted rules and its output is in semantic form. Issues arise from both properties such as limited diversity and the inability to interface a text-level belief tracker. This paper introduces the Neural User Simulator (NUS) whose behaviour is learned from a corpus and which generates natural language, hence needing a less labelled dataset than simulators generating a semantic output. In comparison to much of the past work on this topic, which evaluates user simulators on corpus-based metrics, we use the NUS to train the policy of a reinforcement learning based Spoken Dialogue System. The NUS is compared to the ABUS by evaluating the policies that were trained using the simulators. Cross-model evaluation is performed i.e. training on one simulator and testing on the other. Furthermore, the trained policies are tested on real users. In both evaluation tasks the NUS outperformed the ABUS.
We present "AutoJudge", an automated evaluation method for conversational dialogue systems. The method works by first generating dialogues based on self-talk, i.e. dialogue systems talking to itself. Then, it uses human ratings on these dialogues to train an automated judgement model. Our experiments show that AutoJudge correlates well with the human ratings and can be used to automatically evaluate dialogue systems, even in deployed systems. In a second part, we attempt to apply AutoJudge to improve existing systems. This works well for re-ranking a set of candidate utterances. However, our experiments show that AutoJudge cannot be applied as reward for reinforcement learning, although the metric can distinguish good from bad dialogues. We discuss potential reasons, but state here already that this is still an open question for further research.
During the past decade, several areas of speech and language understanding have witnessed substantial breakthroughs from the use of data-driven models. In the area of dialogue systems, the trend is less obvious, and most practical systems are still built through significant engineering and expert knowledge. Nevertheless, several recent results suggest that data-driven approaches are feasible and quite promising. To facilitate research in this area, we have carried out a wide survey of publicly available datasets suitable for data-driven learning of dialogue systems. We discuss important characteristics of these datasets, how they can be used to learn diverse dialogue strategies, and their other potential uses. We also examine methods for transfer learning between datasets and the use of external knowledge. Finally, we discuss appropriate choice of evaluation metrics for the learning objective.
We present ConvLab-2, an open-source toolkit that enables researchers to build task-oriented dialogue systems with state-of-the-art models, perform an end-to-end evaluation, and diagnose the weakness of systems. As the successor of ConvLab (Lee et al., 2019b), ConvLab-2 inherits ConvLab's framework but integrates more powerful dialogue models and supports more datasets. Besides, we have developed an analysis tool and an interactive tool to assist researchers in diagnosing dialogue systems. The analysis tool presents rich statistics and summarizes common mistakes from simulated dialogues, which facilitates error analysis and system improvement. The interactive tool provides a user interface that allows developers to diagnose an assembled dialogue system by interacting with the system and modifying the output of each system component.
Dialogue systems have become recently essential in our life. Their use is getting more and more fluid and easy throughout the time. This boils down to the improvements made in NLP and AI fields. In this paper, we try to provide an overview to the current state of the art of dialogue systems, their categories and the different approaches to build them. We end up with a discussion that compares all the techniques and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finally, we present an opinion piece suggesting to orientate the research towards the standardization of dialogue systems building.