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.
In spoken dialogue systems, we aim to deploy artificial intelligence to build automated dialogue agents that can converse with humans. Dialogue systems are increasingly being designed to move beyond just imitating conversation and also improve from such interactions over time. In this survey, we present a broad overview of methods developed to build dialogue systems over the years. Different use cases for dialogue systems ranging from task-based systems to open domain chatbots motivate and necessitate specific systems. Starting from simple rule-based systems, research has progressed towards increasingly complex architectures trained on a massive corpus of datasets, like deep learning systems. Motivated with the intuition of resembling human dialogues, progress has been made towards incorporating emotions into the natural language generator, using reinforcement learning. While we see a trend of highly marginal improvement on some metrics, we find that limited justification exists for the metrics, and evaluation practices are not uniform. To conclude, we flag these concerns and highlight possible research directions.
Task-oriented dialogue systems (TODS) are continuing to rise in popularity as various industries find ways to effectively harness their capabilities, saving both time and money. However, even state-of-the-art TODS are not yet reaching their full potential. TODS typically have a primary design focus on completing the task at hand, so the metric of task-resolution should take priority. Other conversational quality attributes that may point to the success, or otherwise, of the dialogue, may be ignored. This can cause interactions between human and dialogue system that leave the user dissatisfied or frustrated. This paper explores the literature on evaluative frameworks of dialogue systems and the role of conversational quality attributes in dialogue systems, looking at if, how, and where they are utilised, and examining their correlation with the performance of the dialogue system.