Earlier in the year, Microsoft detailed the ways Bing has benefited from AI at Scale, an initiative to apply large-scale AI and supercomputing to language processing across Microsoft's apps, services, and managed products. AI at Scale chiefly bolstered the search engine's ability to directly answer questions and generate image captions, but in a blog post today, Microsoft says it's led to Bing improvements in things like autocomplete suggestions. Bing and its competitors have a lot to gain from AI and machine learning, particularly in the natural language domain. Search engines need to comprehend queries no matter how confusingly they're worded, but they've historically struggled with this, leaning on Boolean operators (simple words like "and," "or," and "not") as band-aids to combine or exclude search terms. But with the advent of AI like Google's BERT and Microsoft's Turing family, search engines have the potential to become more conversationally and contextually aware than perhaps ever before.
Understanding a user's query intent behind a search is critical for modern search engine success. Accurate query intent prediction allows the search engine to better serve the user's need by rendering results from more relevant categories. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive learning framework for modeling query intent under different stages of a search. We focus on the design for 1) predicting users' intents as they type in queries on-the-fly in typeahead search using character-level models; and 2) accurate word-level intent prediction models for complete queries. Various deep learning components for query text understanding are experimented. Offline evaluation and online A/B test experiments show that the proposed methods are effective in understanding query intent and efficient to scale for online search systems.
Existing tools for Question Answering (QA) have challenges that limit their use in practice. They can be complex to set up or integrate with existing infrastructure, do not offer configurable interactive interfaces, and do not cover the full set of subtasks that frequently comprise the QA pipeline (query expansion, retrieval, reading, and explanation/sensemaking). To help address these issues, we introduce NeuralQA - a usable library for QA on large datasets. NeuralQA integrates well with existing infrastructure (e.g., ElasticSearch instances and reader models trained with the HuggingFace Transformers API) and offers helpful defaults for QA subtasks. It introduces and implements contextual query expansion (CQE) using a masked language model (MLM) as well as relevant snippets (RelSnip) - a method for condensing large documents into smaller passages that can be speedily processed by a document reader model. Finally, it offers a flexible user interface to support workflows for research explorations (e.g., visualization of gradient-based explanations to support qualitative inspection of model behaviour) and large scale search deployment. Code and documentation for NeuralQA is available as open source on Github.
The role of conversational assistants has become more prevalent in helping people increase their productivity. Document-centered assistance, for example to help an individual quickly review a document, has seen less significant progress, even though it has the potential to tremendously increase a user's productivity. This type of document-centered assistance is the focus of this paper. Our contributions are three-fold: (1) We first present a survey to understand the space of document-centered assistance and the capabilities people expect in this scenario. (2) We investigate the types of queries that users will pose while seeking assistance with documents, and show that document-centered questions form the majority of these queries. (3) We present a set of initial machine learned models that show that (a) we can accurately detect document-centered questions, and (b) we can build reasonably accurate models for answering such questions. These positive results are encouraging, and suggest that even greater results may be attained with continued study of this interesting and novel problem space. Our findings have implications for the design of intelligent systems to support task completion via natural interactions with documents.
We present CovidQA, the beginnings of a question answering dataset specifically designed for COVID-19, built by hand from knowledge gathered from Kaggle's COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge. To our knowledge, this is the first publicly available resource of its type, and intended as a stopgap measure for guiding research until more substantial evaluation resources become available. While this dataset, comprising 124 question-article pairs as of the present version 0.1 release, does not have sufficient examples for supervised machine learning, we believe that it can be helpful for evaluating the zero-shot or transfer capabilities of existing models on topics specifically related to COVID-19. This paper describes our methodology for constructing the dataset and presents the effectiveness of a number of baselines, including term-based techniques and various transformer-based models. The dataset is available at http://covidqa.ai/