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Conversational Agents: Theory and Applications

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In this chapter, we provide a review of conversational agents (CAs), discussing chatbots, intended for casual conversation with a user, as well as task-oriented agents that generally engage in discussions intended to reach one or several specific goals, often (but not always) within a specific domain. We also consider the concept of embodied conversational agents, briefly reviewing aspects such as character animation and speech processing. The many different approaches for representing dialogue in CAs are discussed in some detail, along with methods for evaluating such agents, emphasizing the important topics of accountability and interpretability. A brief historical overview is given, followed by an extensive overview of various applications, especially in the fields of health and education. We end the chapter by discussing benefits and potential risks regarding the societal impact of current and future CA technology.


A Review of Dialogue Systems: From Trained Monkeys to Stochastic Parrots

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In spoken dialogue systems, we aim to deploy artificial intelligence to build automated dialogue agents that can converse with humans. Dialogue systems are increasingly being designed to move beyond just imitating conversation and also improve from such interactions over time. In this survey, we present a broad overview of methods developed to build dialogue systems over the years. Different use cases for dialogue systems ranging from task-based systems to open domain chatbots motivate and necessitate specific systems. Starting from simple rule-based systems, research has progressed towards increasingly complex architectures trained on a massive corpus of datasets, like deep learning systems. Motivated with the intuition of resembling human dialogues, progress has been made towards incorporating emotions into the natural language generator, using reinforcement learning. While we see a trend of highly marginal improvement on some metrics, we find that limited justification exists for the metrics, and evaluation practices are not uniform. To conclude, we flag these concerns and highlight possible research directions.


A Comprehensive Overview of Recommender System and Sentiment Analysis

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Recommender system has been proven to be significantly crucial in many fields and is widely used by various domains. Most of the conventional recommender systems rely on the numeric rating given by a user to reflect his opinion about a consumed item; however, these ratings are not available in many domains. As a result, a new source of information represented by the user-generated reviews is incorporated in the recommendation process to compensate for the lack of these ratings. The reviews contain prosperous and numerous information related to the whole item or a specific feature that can be extracted using the sentiment analysis field. This paper gives a comprehensive overview to help researchers who aim to work with recommender system and sentiment analysis. It includes a background of the recommender system concept, including phases, approaches, and performance metrics used in recommender systems. Then, it discusses the sentiment analysis concept and highlights the main points in the sentiment analysis, including level, approaches, and focuses on aspect-based sentiment analysis.


Building A User-Centric and Content-Driven Socialbot

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

To build Sounding Board, we develop a system architecture that is capable of accommodating dialog strategies that we designed for socialbot conversations. The architecture consists of a multi-dimensional language understanding module for analyzing user utterances, a hierarchical dialog management framework for dialog context tracking and complex dialog control, and a language generation process that realizes the response plan and makes adjustments for speech synthesis. Additionally, we construct a new knowledge base to power the socialbot by collecting social chat content from a variety of sources. An important contribution of the system is the synergy between the knowledge base and the dialog management, i.e., the use of a graph structure to organize the knowledge base that makes dialog control very efficient in bringing related content to the discussion. Using the data collected from Sounding Board during the competition, we carry out in-depth analyses of socialbot conversations and user ratings which provide valuable insights in evaluation methods for socialbots. We additionally investigate a new approach for system evaluation and diagnosis that allows scoring individual dialog segments in the conversation. Finally, observing that socialbots suffer from the issue of shallow conversations about topics associated with unstructured data, we study the problem of enabling extended socialbot conversations grounded on a document. To bring together machine reading and dialog control techniques, a graph-based document representation is proposed, together with methods for automatically constructing the graph. Using the graph-based representation, dialog control can be carried out by retrieving nodes or moving along edges in the graph. To illustrate the usage, a mixed-initiative dialog strategy is designed for socialbot conversations on news articles.


Transferable Multi-Domain State Generator for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Over-dependence on domain ontology and lack of knowledge sharing across domains are two practical and yet less studied problems of dialogue state tracking. Existing approaches generally fall short in tracking unknown slot values during inference and often have difficulties in adapting to new domains. In this paper, we propose a Transferable Dialogue State Generator (TRADE) that generates dialogue states from utterances using a copy mechanism, facilitating knowledge transfer when predicting (domain, slot, value) triplets not encountered during training. Our model is composed of an utterance encoder, a slot gate, and a state generator, which are shared across domains. Empirical results demonstrate that TRADE achieves state-of-the-art joint goal accuracy of 48.62% for the five domains of MultiWOZ, a human-human dialogue dataset. In addition, we show its transferring ability by simulating zero-shot and few-shot dialogue state tracking for unseen domains. TRADE achieves 60.58% joint goal accuracy in one of the zero-shot domains, and is able to adapt to few-shot cases without forgetting already trained domains.


Learning to Memorize in Neural Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In this thesis, we leverage the neural copy mechanism and memory-augmented neural networks (MANNs) to address existing challenge of neural task-oriented dialogue learning. We show the effectiveness of our strategy by achieving good performance in multi-domain dialogue state tracking, retrieval-based dialogue systems, and generation-based dialogue systems. We first propose a transferable dialogue state generator (TRADE) that leverages its copy mechanism to get rid of dialogue ontology and share knowledge between domains. We also evaluate unseen domain dialogue state tracking and show that TRADE enables zero-shot dialogue state tracking and can adapt to new few-shot domains without forgetting the previous domains. Second, we utilize MANNs to improve retrieval-based dialogue learning. They are able to capture dialogue sequential dependencies and memorize long-term information. We also propose a recorded delexicalization copy strategy to replace real entity values with ordered entity types. Our models are shown to surpass other retrieval baselines, especially when the conversation has a large number of turns. Lastly, we tackle generation-based dialogue learning with two proposed models, the memory-to-sequence (Mem2Seq) and global-to-local memory pointer network (GLMP). Mem2Seq is the first model to combine multi-hop memory attention with the idea of the copy mechanism. GLMP further introduces the concept of response sketching and double pointers copying. We show that GLMP achieves the state-of-the-art performance on human evaluation.


Survey on Evaluation Methods for Dialogue Systems

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In this paper we survey the methods and concepts developed for the evaluation of dialogue systems. Evaluation is a crucial part during the development process. Often, dialogue systems are evaluated by means of human evaluations and questionnaires. However, this tends to be very cost and time intensive. Thus, much work has been put into finding methods, which allow to reduce the involvement of human labour. In this survey, we present the main concepts and methods. For this, we differentiate between the various classes of dialogue systems (task-oriented dialogue systems, conversational dialogue systems, and question-answering dialogue systems). We cover each class by introducing the main technologies developed for the dialogue systems and then by presenting the evaluation methods regarding this class.


Recent advances in conversational NLP : Towards the standardization of Chatbot building

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Dialogue systems have become recently essential in our life. Their use is getting more and more fluid and easy throughout the time. This boils down to the improvements made in NLP and AI fields. In this paper, we try to provide an overview to the current state of the art of dialogue systems, their categories and the different approaches to build them. We end up with a discussion that compares all the techniques and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finally, we present an opinion piece suggesting to orientate the research towards the standardization of dialogue systems building.


Rethinking Action Spaces for Reinforcement Learning in End-to-end Dialog Agents with Latent Variable Models

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Defining action spaces for conversational agents and optimizing their decision-making process with reinforcement learning is an enduring challenge. Common practice has been to use handcrafted dialog acts, or the output vocabulary, e.g. in neural encoder decoders, as the action spaces. Both have their own limitations. This paper proposes a novel latent action framework that treats the action spaces of an end-to-end dialog agent as latent variables and develops unsupervised methods in order to induce its own action space from the data. Comprehensive experiments are conducted examining both continuous and discrete action types and two different optimization methods based on stochastic variational inference. Results show that the proposed latent actions achieve superior empirical performance improvement over previous word-level policy gradient methods on both DealOrNoDeal and MultiWoz dialogs. Our detailed analysis also provides insights about various latent variable approaches for policy learning and can serve as a foundation for developing better latent actions in future research.


Global-to-local Memory Pointer Networks for Task-Oriented Dialogue

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

End-to-end task-oriented dialogue is challenging since knowledge bases are usually large, dynamic and hard to incorporate into a learning framework. We propose the global-to-local memory pointer (GLMP) networks to address this issue. In our model, a global memory encoder and a local memory decoder are proposed to share external knowledge. The encoder encodes dialogue history, modifies global contextual representation, and generates a global memory pointer. The decoder first generates a sketch response with unfilled slots. Next, it passes the global memory pointer to filter the external knowledge for relevant information, then instantiates the slots via the local memory pointers. We empirically show that our model can improve copy accuracy and mitigate the common out-of-vocabulary problem. As a result, GLMP is able to improve over the previous state-of-the-art models in both simulated bAbI Dialogue dataset and human-human Stanford Multi-domain Dialogue dataset on automatic and human evaluation.