Dialogue state tracking (DST) is at the heart of task-oriented dialogue systems. However, the scarcity of labeled data is an obstacle to building accurate and robust state tracking systems that work across a variety of domains. Existing approaches generally require some dialogue data with state information and their ability to generalize to unknown domains is limited. In this paper, we propose using machine reading comprehension (RC) in state tracking from two perspectives: model architectures and datasets. We divide the slot types in dialogue state into categorical or extractive to borrow the advantages from both multiple-choice and span-based reading comprehension models. Our method achieves near the current state-of-the-art in joint goal accuracy on MultiWOZ 2.1 given full training data. More importantly, by leveraging machine reading comprehension datasets, our method outperforms the existing approaches by many a large margin in few-shot scenarios when the availability of in-domain data is limited. Lastly, even without any state tracking data, i.e., zero-shot scenario, our proposed approach achieves greater than 90% average slot accuracy in 12 out of 30 slots in MultiWOZ 2.1.
Recent efforts in Dialogue State Tracking (DST) for task-oriented dialogues have progressed toward open-vocabulary or generation-based approaches where the models can generate slot value candidates from the dialogue history itself. These approaches have shown good performance gain, especially in complicated dialogue domains with dynamic slot values. However, they fall short in two aspects: (1) they do not allow models to explicitly learn signals across domains and slots to detect potential dependencies among (domain, slot) pairs; and (2) existing models follow auto-regressive approaches which incur high time cost when the dialogue evolves over multiple domains and multiple turns. In this paper, we propose a novel framework of Non-Autoregressive Dialog State Tracking (NADST) which can factor in potential dependencies among domains and slots to optimize the models towards better prediction of dialogue states as a complete set rather than separate slots. In particular, the non-autoregressive nature of our method not only enables decoding in parallel to significantly reduce the latency of DST for real-time dialogue response generation, but also detect dependencies among slots at token level in addition to slot and domain level. Our empirical results show that our model achieves the state-of-the-art joint accuracy across all domains on the MultiWOZ 2.1 corpus, and the latency of our model is an order of magnitude lower than the previous state of the art as the dialogue history extends over time.
An indispensable component in task-oriented dialogue systems is the dialogue state tracker, which keeps track of users' intentions in the course of conversation. The typical approach towards this goal is to fill in multiple pre-defined slots that are essential to complete the task. Although various dialogue state tracking methods have been proposed in recent years, most of them predict the value of each slot separately and fail to consider the correlations among slots. In this paper, we propose a slot self-attention mechanism that can learn the slot correlations automatically. Specifically, a slot-token attention is first utilized to obtain slot-specific features from the dialogue context. Then a stacked slot self-attention is applied on these features to learn the correlations among slots. We conduct comprehensive experiments on two multi-domain task-oriented dialogue datasets, including MultiWOZ 2.0 and MultiWOZ 2.1. The experimental results demonstrate that our approach achieves state-of-the-art performance on both datasets, verifying the necessity and effectiveness of taking slot correlations into consideration.
Task oriented dialog agents provide a natural language interface for users to complete their goal. Dialog State Tracking (DST), which is often a core component of these systems, tracks the system's understanding of the user's goal throughout the conversation. To enable accurate multi-domain DST, the model needs to encode dependencies between past utterances and slot semantics and understand the dialog context, including long-range cross-domain references. We introduce a novel architecture for this task to encode the conversation history and slot semantics more robustly by using attention mechanisms at multiple granularities. In particular, we use cross-attention to model relationships between the context and slots at different semantic levels and self-attention to resolve cross-domain coreferences. In addition, our proposed architecture does not rely on knowing the domain ontologies beforehand and can also be used in a zero-shot setting for new domains or unseen slot values. Our model improves the joint goal accuracy by 5% (absolute) in the full-data setting and by up to 2% (absolute) in the zero-shot setting over the present state-of-the-art on the MultiWoZ 2.1 dataset.
MultiWOZ is a well-known task-oriented dialogue dataset containing over 10,000 annotated dialogues spanning 8 domains. It is extensively used as a benchmark for dialogue state tracking. However, recent works have reported presence of substantial noise in the dialogue state annotations. MultiWOZ 2.1 identified and fixed many of these erroneous annotations and user utterances, resulting in an improved version of this dataset. This work introduces MultiWOZ 2.2, which is a yet another improved version of this dataset. Firstly, we identify and fix dialogue state annotation errors across 17.3% of the utterances on top of MultiWOZ 2.1. Secondly, we redefine the ontology by disallowing vocabularies of slots with a large number of possible values (e.g., restaurant name, time of booking). In addition, we introduce slot span annotations for these slots to standardize them across recent models, which previously used custom string matching heuristics to generate them. We also benchmark a few state of the art dialogue state tracking models on the corrected dataset to facilitate comparison for future work. In the end, we discuss best practices for dialogue data collection that can help avoid annotation errors.