Collaborating Authors

Metallinou, Angeliki

Dialog Simulation with Realistic Variations for Training Goal-Oriented Conversational Systems Artificial Intelligence

Goal-oriented dialog systems enable users to complete specific goals like requesting information about a movie or booking a ticket. Typically the dialog system pipeline contains multiple ML models, including natural language understanding, state tracking and action prediction (policy learning). These models are trained through a combination of supervised or reinforcement learning methods and therefore require collection of labeled domain specific datasets. However, collecting annotated datasets with language and dialog-flow variations is expensive, time-consuming and scales poorly due to human involvement. In this paper, we propose an approach for automatically creating a large corpus of annotated dialogs from a few thoroughly annotated sample dialogs and the dialog schema. Our approach includes a novel goal-sampling technique for sampling plausible user goals and a dialog simulation technique that uses heuristic interplay between the user and the system (Alexa), where the user tries to achieve the sampled goal. We validate our approach by generating data and training three different downstream conversational ML models. We achieve 18 ? 50% relative accuracy improvements on a held-out test set compared to a baseline dialog generation approach that only samples natural language and entity value variations from existing catalogs but does not generate any novel dialog flow variations. We also qualitatively establish that the proposed approach is better than the baseline. Moreover, several different conversational experiences have been built using this method, which enables customers to have a wide variety of conversations with Alexa.

MA-DST: Multi-Attention Based Scalable Dialog State Tracking Artificial Intelligence

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.

Controlled Text Generation for Data Augmentation in Intelligent Artificial Agents Machine Learning

Data availability is a bottleneck during early stages of development of new capabilities for intelligent artificial agents. We investigate the use of text generation techniques to augment the training data of a popular commercial artificial agent across categories of functionality, with the goal of faster development of new functionality. We explore a variety of encoder-decoder generative models for synthetic training data generation and propose using conditional variational auto-encoders. Our approach requires only direct optimization, works well with limited data and significantly outperforms the previous controlled text generation techniques. Further, the generated data are used as additional training samples in an extrinsic intent classification task, leading to improved performance by up to 5\% absolute f-score in low-resource cases, validating the usefulness of our approach.

Simple Question Answering with Subgraph Ranking and Joint-Scoring Machine Learning

Knowledge graph based simple question answering (KBSQA) is a major area of research within question answering. Although only dealing with simple questions, i.e., questions that can be answered through a single knowledge base (KB) fact, this task is neither simple nor close to being solved. Targeting on the two main steps, subgraph selection and fact selection, the research community has developed sophisticated approaches. However, the importance of subgraph ranking and leveraging the subject--relation dependency of a KB fact have not been sufficiently explored. Motivated by this, we present a unified framework to describe and analyze existing approaches. Using this framework as a starting point, we focus on two aspects: improving subgraph selection through a novel ranking method and leveraging the subject--relation dependency by proposing a joint scoring CNN model with a novel loss function that enforces the well-order of scores. Our methods achieve a new state of the art (85.44% in accuracy) on the SimpleQuestions dataset.

On Evaluating and Comparing Open Domain Dialog Systems Artificial Intelligence

Conversational agents are exploding in popularity. However, much work remains in the area of non goal-oriented conversations, despite significant growth in research interest over recent years. To advance the state of the art in conversational AI, Amazon launched the Alexa Prize, a 2.5-million dollar university competition where sixteen selected university teams built conversational agents to deliver the best social conversational experience. Alexa Prize provided the academic community with the unique opportunity to perform research with a live system used by millions of users. The subjectivity associated with evaluating conversations is key element underlying the challenge of building non-goal oriented dialogue systems. In this paper, we propose a comprehensive evaluation strategy with multiple metrics designed to reduce subjectivity by selecting metrics which correlate well with human judgement. The proposed metrics provide granular analysis of the conversational agents, which is not captured in human ratings. We show that these metrics can be used as a reasonable proxy for human judgment. We provide a mechanism to unify the metrics for selecting the top performing agents, which has also been applied throughout the Alexa Prize competition. To our knowledge, to date it is the largest setting for evaluating agents with millions of conversations and hundreds of thousands of ratings from users. We believe that this work is a step towards an automatic evaluation process for conversational AIs.

Unsupervised Transfer Learning for Spoken Language Understanding in Intelligent Agents Artificial Intelligence

User interaction with voice-powered agents generates large amounts of unlabeled utterances. In this paper, we explore techniques to efficiently transfer the knowledge from these unlabeled utterances to improve model performance on Spoken Language Understanding (SLU) tasks. We use Embeddings from Language Model (ELMo) to take advantage of unlabeled data by learning contextualized word representations. Additionally, we propose ELMo-Light (ELMoL), a faster and simpler unsupervised pre-training method for SLU. Our findings suggest unsupervised pre-training on a large corpora of unlabeled utterances leads to significantly better SLU performance compared to training from scratch and it can even outperform conventional supervised transfer. Additionally, we show that the gains from unsupervised transfer techniques can be further improved by supervised transfer. The improvements are more pronounced in low resource settings and when using only 1000 labeled in-domain samples, our techniques match the performance of training from scratch on 10-15x more labeled in-domain data.

Online Embedding Compression for Text Classification using Low Rank Matrix Factorization Machine Learning

Deep learning models have become state of the art for natural language processing (NLP) tasks, however deploying these models in production system poses significant memory constraints. Existing compression methods are either lossy or introduce significant latency. We propose a compression method that leverages low rank matrix factorization during training,to compress the word embedding layer which represents the size bottleneck for most NLP models. Our models are trained, compressed and then further re-trained on the downstream task to recover accuracy while maintaining the reduced size. Empirically, we show that the proposed method can achieve 90% compression with minimal impact in accuracy for sentence classification tasks, and outperforms alternative methods like fixed-point quantization or offline word embedding compression. We also analyze the inference time and storage space for our method through FLOP calculations, showing that we can compress DNN models by a configurable ratio and regain accuracy loss without introducing additional latency compared to fixed point quantization. Finally, we introduce a novel learning rate schedule, the Cyclically Annealed Learning Rate (CALR), which we empirically demonstrate to outperform other popular adaptive learning rate algorithms on a sentence classification benchmark.

Context Aware Conversational Understanding for Intelligent Agents With a Screen

AAAI Conferences

We describe an intelligent context-aware conversational system that incorporates screen context information to service multimodal user requests. Screen content is used for disambiguation of utterances that refer to screen objects and for enabling the user to act upon screen objects using voice commands. We propose a deep learning architecture that jointly models the user utterance and the screen and incorporates detailed screen content features. Our model is trained to optimize end to end semantic accuracy across contextual and non-contextual functionality, therefore learns the desired behavior directly from the data. We show that this approach outperforms a rule-based alternative, and can be extended in a straightforward manner to new contextual use cases. We perform detailed evaluation of contextual and non-contextual use cases and show that our system displays accurate contextual behavior without degrading the performance of non-contextual user requests.