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

arXiv.org 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.


Modelling Hierarchical Structure between Dialogue Policy and Natural Language Generator with Option Framework for Task-oriented Dialogue System

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Designing task-oriented dialogue systems is a challenging research topic, since it needs not only to generate utterances fulfilling user requests but also to guarantee the comprehensibility. Many previous works trained end-to-end (E2E) models with supervised learning (SL), however, the bias in annotated system utterances remains as a bottleneck. Reinforcement learning (RL) deals with the problem through using non-differentiable evaluation metrics (e.g., the success rate) as rewards. Nonetheless, existing works with RL showed that the comprehensibility of generated system utterances could be corrupted when improving the performance on fulfilling user requests. In our work, we (1) propose modelling the hierarchical structure between dialogue policy and natural language generator (NLG) with the option framework, called HDNO; (2) train HDNO with hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL), as well as suggest alternating updates between dialogue policy and NLG during HRL inspired by fictitious play, to preserve the comprehensibility of generated system utterances while improving fulfilling user requests; and (3) propose using a discriminator modelled with language models as an additional reward to further improve the comprehensibility. We test HDNO on MultiWoz 2.0 and MultiWoz 2.1, the datasets on multi-domain dialogues, in comparison with word-level E2E model trained with RL, LaRL and HDSA, showing a significant improvement on the total performance evaluated with automatic metrics.


Optimizing Interactive Systems via Data-Driven Objectives

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Effective optimization is essential for real-world interactive systems to provide a satisfactory user experience in response to changing user behavior. However, it is often challenging to find an objective to optimize for interactive systems (e.g., policy learning in task-oriented dialog systems). Generally, such objectives are manually crafted and rarely capture complex user needs in an accurate manner. We propose an approach that infers the objective directly from observed user interactions. These inferences can be made regardless of prior knowledge and across different types of user behavior. We introduce Interactive System Optimizer (ISO), a novel algorithm that uses these inferred objectives for optimization. Our main contribution is a new general principled approach to optimizing interactive systems using data-driven objectives. We demonstrate the high effectiveness of ISO over several simulations.


Adaptive Dialog Policy Learning with Hindsight and User Modeling

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Reinforcement learning methods have been used to compute dialog policies from language-based interaction experiences. Efficiency is of particular importance in dialog policy learning, because of the considerable cost of interacting with people, and the very poor user experience from low-quality conversations. Aiming at improving the efficiency of dialog policy learning, we develop algorithm LHUA (Learning with Hindsight, User modeling, and Adaptation) that, for the first time, enables dialog agents to adaptively learn with hindsight from both simulated and real users. Simulation and hindsight provide the dialog agent with more experience and more (positive) reinforcements respectively. Experimental results suggest that, in success rate and policy quality, LHUA outperforms competitive baselines from the literature, including its no-simulation, no-adaptation, and no-hindsight counterparts.


Plato Dialogue System: A Flexible Conversational AI Research Platform

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

As the field of Spoken Dialogue Systems and Conversational AI grows, so does the need for tools and environments that abstract away implementation details in order to expedite the development process, lower the barrier of entry to the field, and offer a common test-bed for new ideas. In this paper, we present Plato, a flexible Conversational AI platform written in Python that supports any kind of conversational agent architecture, from standard architectures to architectures with jointly-trained components, single- or multi-party interactions, and offline or online training of any conversational agent component. Plato has been designed to be easy to understand and debug and is agnostic to the underlying learning frameworks that train each component.


Human-Like Decision Making: Document-level Aspect Sentiment Classification via Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Recently, neural networks have shown promising results on Document-level Aspect Sentiment Classification (DASC). However, these approaches often offer little transparency w.r.t. their inner working mechanisms and lack interpretability. In this paper, to simulating the steps of analyzing aspect sentiment in a document by human beings, we propose a new Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning (HRL) approach to DASC. This approach incorporates clause selection and word selection strategies to tackle the data noise problem in the task of DASC. First, a high-level policy is proposed to select aspect-relevant clauses and discard noisy clauses. Then, a low-level policy is proposed to select sentiment-relevant words and discard noisy words inside the selected clauses. Finally, a sentiment rating predictor is designed to provide reward signals to guide both clause and word selection. Experimental results demonstrate the impressive effectiveness of the proposed approach to DASC over the state-of-the-art baselines.


Building Task-Oriented Visual Dialog Systems Through Alternative Optimization Between Dialog Policy and Language Generation

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Reinforcement learning (RL) is an effective approach to learn an optimal dialog policy for task-oriented visual dialog systems. A common practice is to apply RL on a neural sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) framework with the action space being the output vocabulary in the decoder. However, it is difficult to design a reward function that can achieve a balance between learning an effective policy and generating a natural dialog response. This paper proposes a novel framework that alternatively trains a RL policy for image guessing and a supervised seq2seq model to improve dialog generation quality. We evaluate our framework on the GuessWhich task and the framework achieves the state-of-the-art performance in both task completion and dialog quality.


Budgeted Policy Learning for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

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.


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.


Dialog-based Interactive Image Retrieval

Neural Information Processing Systems

Existing methods for interactive image retrieval have demonstrated the merit of integrating user feedback, improving retrieval results. However, most current systems rely on restricted forms of user feedback, such as binary relevance responses, or feedback based on a fixed set of relative attributes, which limits their impact. In this paper, we introduce a new approach to interactive image search that enables users to provide feedback via natural language, allowing for more natural and effective interaction. We formulate the task of dialog-based interactive image retrieval as a reinforcement learning problem, and reward the dialog system for improving the rank of the target image during each dialog turn. To mitigate the cumbersome and costly process of collecting human-machine conversations as the dialog system learns, we train our system with a user simulator, which is itself trained to describe the differences between target and candidate images. The efficacy of our approach is demonstrated in a footwear retrieval application. Experiments on both simulated and real-world data show that 1) our proposed learning framework achieves better accuracy than other supervised and reinforcement learning baselines and 2) user feedback based on natural language rather than pre-specified attributes leads to more effective retrieval results, and a more natural and expressive communication interface.