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Reinforcement Learning for Spoken Dialogue Systems

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recently, a number of authors have proposed treating dialogue systems as Markov decision processes (MDPs). However, the practical application ofMDP algorithms to dialogue systems faces a number of severe technical challenges. We have built a general software tool (RLDS, for Reinforcement Learning for Dialogue Systems) based on the MDP framework, and have applied it to dialogue corpora gathered from two dialogue systems built at AT&T Labs. Our experiments demonstrate that RLDS holds promise as a tool for "browsing" and understanding correlations in complex, temporally dependent dialogue corpora.


Reinforcement Learning for Spoken Dialogue Systems

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recently, a number of authors have proposed treating dialogue systems as Markov decision processes (MDPs). However, the practical application ofMDP algorithms to dialogue systems faces a number of severe technical challenges. We have built a general software tool (RLDS, for Reinforcement Learning for Dialogue Systems) based on the MDP framework, and have applied it to dialogue corpora gathered from two dialogue systems built at AT&T Labs. Our experiments demonstrate that RLDS holds promise as a tool for "browsing" and understanding correlations in complex, temporally dependent dialogue corpora.


Optimizing Dialogue Management with Reinforcement Learning: Experiments with the NJFun System

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Designing the dialogue policy of a spoken dialogue system involves many nontrivial choices. This paper presents a reinforcement learning approach for automatically optimizing a dialogue policy, which addresses the technical challenges in applying reinforcement learning to a working dialogue system with human users. We report on the design, construction and empirical evaluation of NJFun, an experimental spoken dialogue system that provides users with access to information about fun things to do in New Jersey. Our results show that by optimizing its performance via reinforcement learning, NJFun measurably improves system performance.


An Application of Reinforcement Learning to Dialogue Strategy Selection in a Spoken Dialogue System for Email

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This paper describes a novel method by which a spoken dialogue system can learn to choose an optimal dialogue strategy from its experience interacting with human users. The method is based on a combination of reinforcement learning and performance modeling of spoken dialogue systems. The reinforcement learning component applies Q-learning (Watkins, 1989), while the performance modeling component applies the PARADISE evaluation framework (Walker et al., 1997) to learn the performance function (reward) used in reinforcement learning. We illustrate the method with a spoken dialogue system named ELVIS (EmaiL Voice Interactive System), that supports access to email over the phone. We conduct a set of experiments for training an optimal dialogue strategy on a corpus of 219 dialogues in which human users interact with ELVIS over the phone. We then test that strategy on a corpus of 18 dialogues. We show that ELVIS can learn to optimize its strategy selection for agent initiative, for reading messages, and for summarizing email folders.


A Deep Reinforcement Learning Chatbot

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present MILABOT: a deep reinforcement learning chatbot developed by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) for the Amazon Alexa Prize competition. MILABOT is capable of conversing with humans on popular small talk topics through both speech and text. The system consists of an ensemble of natural language generation and retrieval models, including template-based models, bag-of-words models, sequence-to-sequence neural network and latent variable neural network models. By applying reinforcement learning to crowdsourced data and real-world user interactions, the system has been trained to select an appropriate response from the models in its ensemble. The system has been evaluated through A/B testing with real-world users, where it performed significantly better than many competing systems. Due to its machine learning architecture, the system is likely to improve with additional data.