Training a task-completion dialogue agent via reinforcement learning (RL) is costly because it requires many interactions with real users. One common alternative is to use a user simulator. However, a user simulator usually lacks the language complexity of human interlocutors and the biases in its design may tend to degrade the agent. To address these issues, we present Deep Dyna-Q, which to our knowledge is the first deep RL framework that integrates planning for task-completion dialogue policy learning. We incorporate into the dialogue agent a model of the environment, referred to as the world model, to mimic real user response and generate simulated experience. During dialogue policy learning, the world model is constantly updated with real user experience to approach real user behavior, and in turn, the dialogue agent is optimized using both real experience and simulated experience. The effectiveness of our approach is demonstrated on a movie-ticket booking task in both simulated and human-in-the-loop settings.
This paper presents a new approach that extends Deep Dyna-Q (DDQ) by incorporating a Budget-Conscious Scheduling (BCS) to best utilize a fixed, small amount of user interactions (budget) for learning task-oriented dialogue agents. BCS consists of (1) a Poisson-based global scheduler to allocate budget over different stages of training; (2) a controller to decide at each training step whether the agent is trained using real or simulated experiences; (3) a user goal sampling module to generate the experiences that are most effective for policy learning. Experiments on a movie-ticket booking task with simulated and real users show that our approach leads to significant improvements in success rate over the state-of-the-art baselines given the fixed budget.
Training task-completion dialogue agents with reinforcement learning usually requires a large number of real user experiences. The Dyna-Q algorithm extends Q-learning by integrating a world model, and thus can effectively boost training efficiency using simulated experiences generated by the world model. The effectiveness of Dyna-Q, however, depends on the quality of the world model - or implicitly, the pre-specified ratio of real vs. simulated experiences used for Q-learning. To this end, we extend the recently proposed Deep Dyna-Q (DDQ) framework by integrating a switcher that automatically determines whether to use a real or simulated experience for Q-learning. Furthermore, we explore the use of active learning for improving sample efficiency, by encouraging the world model to generate simulated experiences in the state-action space where the agent has not (fully) explored. Our results show that by combining switcher and active learning, the new framework named as Switch-based Active Deep Dyna-Q (Switch-DDQ), leads to significant improvement over DDQ and Q-learning baselines in both simulation and human evaluations.
One of the major drawbacks of modularized task-completion dialogue systems is that each module is trained individually, which presents several challenges. For example, downstream modules are affected by earlier modules, and the performance of the entire system is not robust to the accumulated errors. This paper presents a novel end-to-end learning framework for task-completion dialogue systems to tackle such issues. Our neural dialogue system can directly interact with a structured database to assist users in accessing information and accomplishing certain tasks. The reinforcement learning based dialogue manager offers robust capabilities to handle noises caused by other components of the dialogue system. Our experiments in a movie-ticket booking domain show that our end-to-end system not only outperforms modularized dialogue system baselines for both objective and subjective evaluation, but also is robust to noises as demonstrated by several systematic experiments with different error granularity and rates specific to the language understanding module.
Reinforcement-based training methods have emerged as the most popular choice to train an efficient and effective dialog policy. However, these methods are suffering from sparse and unstable reward signals usually returned from the user simulator at the end of the dialog. Besides, the reward signal is manually designed by human experts which requires domain knowledge. A number of adversarial learning methods have been proposed to learn the reward function together with the dialog policy. However, to alternatively update the dialog policy and the reward model on the fly, the algorithms to update the dialog policy are limited to policy gradient-based algorithms, such as REINFORCE and PPO. Besides, the alternative training of the dialog agent and the reward model can easily get stuck in local optimum or result in mode collapse. In this work, we propose to decompose the previous adversarial training into two different steps. We first train the discriminator with an auxiliary dialog generator and then incorporate this trained reward model to a common reinforcement learning method to train a high-quality dialog agent. This approach is applicable to both on-policy and off-policy reinforcement learning methods. By conducting several experiments, we show the proposed methods can achieve remarkable task success and its potential to transfer knowledge from existing domains to a new domain.