The adoption of voice assistants like Alexa or Siri has grown rapidly, allowing users to instantly access information via voice search. Query suggestion is a standard feature of screen-based search experiences, allowing users to explore additional topics. However, this is not trivial to implement in voice-based settings. To enable this, we tackle the novel task of suggesting questions with compact and natural voice hints to allow users to ask follow-up questions. We define the task, ground it in syntactic theory and outline linguistic desiderata for spoken hints. We propose baselines and an approach using sequence-to-sequence Transformers to generate spoken hints from a list of questions. Using a new dataset of 6681 input questions and human written hints, we evaluated the models with automatic metrics and human evaluation. Results show that a naive approach of concatenating suggested questions creates poor voice hints. Our approach, which applies a linguistically-motivated pretraining task was strongly preferred by humans for producing the most natural hints.
E-commerce product catalogs contain billions of items. Most products have lengthy titles, as sellers pack them with product attributes to improve retrieval, and highlight key product aspects. This results in a gap between such unnatural products titles, and how customers refer to them. It also limits how e-commerce stores can use these seller-provided titles for recommendation, QA, or review summarization. Inspired by recent work on instruction-tuned LLMs, we present InstructPTS, a controllable approach for the task of Product Title Summarization (PTS). Trained using a novel instruction fine-tuning strategy, our approach is able to summarize product titles according to various criteria (e.g. number of words in a summary, inclusion of specific phrases, etc.). Extensive evaluation on a real-world e-commerce catalog shows that compared to simple fine-tuning of LLMs, our proposed approach can generate more accurate product name summaries, with an improvement of over 14 and 8 BLEU and ROUGE points, respectively.
We present MULTICONER V2, a dataset for fine-grained Named Entity Recognition covering 33 entity classes across 12 languages, in both monolingual and multilingual settings. This dataset aims to tackle the following practical challenges in NER: (i) effective handling of fine-grained classes that include complex entities like movie titles, and (ii) performance degradation due to noise generated from typing mistakes or OCR errors. The dataset is compiled from open resources like Wikipedia and Wikidata, and is publicly available. Evaluation based on the XLM-RoBERTa baseline highlights the unique challenges posed by MULTICONER V2: (i) the fine-grained taxonomy is challenging, where the scores are low with macro-F1=0.63 (across all languages), and (ii) the corruption strategy significantly impairs performance, with entity corruption resulting in 9% lower performance relative to non-entity corruptions across all languages. This highlights the greater impact of entity noise in contrast to context noise.
Customers interacting with product search engines are increasingly formulating information-seeking queries. Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) retrieval aims to retrieve common question-answer pairs for a user query with question intent. Integrating FAQ retrieval in product search can not only empower users to make more informed purchase decisions, but also enhance user retention through efficient post-purchase support. Determining when an FAQ entry can satisfy a user's information need within product search, without disrupting their shopping experience, represents an important challenge. We propose an intent-aware FAQ retrieval system consisting of (1) an intent classifier that predicts when a user's information need can be answered by an FAQ; (2) a reformulation model that rewrites a query into a natural question. Offline evaluation demonstrates that our approach improves Hit@1 by 13% on retrieving ground-truth FAQs, while reducing latency by 95% compared to baseline systems. These improvements are further validated by real user feedback, where 71% of displayed FAQs on top of product search results received explicit positive user feedback. Overall, our findings show promising directions for integrating FAQ retrieval into product search at scale.
Spoken Question Answering (QA) is a key feature of voice assistants, usually backed by multiple QA systems. Users ask questions via spontaneous speech which can contain disfluencies, errors, and informal syntax or phrasing. This is a major challenge in QA, causing unanswered questions or irrelevant answers, and leading to bad user experiences. We analyze failed QA requests to identify core challenges: lexical gaps, proposition types, complex syntactic structure, and high specificity. We propose a Semantic Question Reformulation (SURF) model offering three linguistically-grounded operations (repair, syntactic reshaping, generalization) to rewrite questions to facilitate answering. Offline evaluation on 1M unanswered questions from a leading voice assistant shows that SURF significantly improves answer rates: up to 24% of previously unanswered questions obtain relevant answers (75%). Live deployment shows positive impact for millions of customers with unanswered questions; explicit relevance feedback shows high user satisfaction.
We present the findings of SemEval-2023 Task 2 on Fine-grained Multilingual Named Entity Recognition (MultiCoNER 2). Divided into 13 tracks, the task focused on methods to identify complex fine-grained named entities (like WRITTENWORK, VEHICLE, MUSICALGRP) across 12 languages, in both monolingual and multilingual scenarios, as well as noisy settings. The task used the MultiCoNER V2 dataset, composed of 2.2 million instances in Bangla, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Italian., Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian. MultiCoNER 2 was one of the most popular tasks of SemEval-2023. It attracted 842 submissions from 47 teams, and 34 teams submitted system papers. Results showed that complex entity types such as media titles and product names were the most challenging. Methods fusing external knowledge into transformer models achieved the best performance, and the largest gains were on the Creative Work and Group classes, which are still challenging even with external knowledge. Some fine-grained classes proved to be more challenging than others, such as SCIENTIST, ARTWORK, and PRIVATECORP. We also observed that noisy data has a significant impact on model performance, with an average drop of 10% on the noisy subset. The task highlights the need for future research on improving NER robustness on noisy data containing complex entities.
Conversational Question Answering (CQA) aims to answer questions contained within dialogues, which are not easily interpretable without context. Developing a model to rewrite conversational questions into self-contained ones is an emerging solution in industry settings as it allows using existing single-turn QA systems to avoid training a CQA model from scratch. Previous work trains rewriting models using human rewrites as supervision. However, such objectives are disconnected with QA models and therefore more human-like rewrites do not guarantee better QA performance. In this paper we propose using QA feedback to supervise the rewriting model with reinforcement learning. Experiments show that our approach can effectively improve QA performance over baselines for both extractive and retrieval QA. Furthermore, human evaluation shows that our method can generate more accurate and detailed rewrites when compared to human annotations.
We present MultiCoNER, a large multilingual dataset for Named Entity Recognition that covers 3 domains (Wiki sentences, questions, and search queries) across 11 languages, as well as multilingual and code-mixing subsets. This dataset is designed to represent contemporary challenges in NER, including low-context scenarios (short and uncased text), syntactically complex entities like movie titles, and long-tail entity distributions. The 26M token dataset is compiled from public resources using techniques such as heuristic-based sentence sampling, template extraction and slotting, and machine translation. We applied two NER models on our dataset: a baseline XLM-RoBERTa model, and a state-of-the-art GEMNET model that leverages gazetteers. The baseline achieves moderate performance (macro-F1=54%), highlighting the difficulty of our data. GEMNET, which uses gazetteers, improvement significantly (average improvement of macro-F1=+30%). MultiCoNER poses challenges even for large pre-trained language models, and we believe that it can help further research in building robust NER systems. MultiCoNER is publicly available at https://registry.opendata.aws/multiconer/ and we hope that this resource will help advance research in various aspects of NER.
BERT based ranking models have achieved superior performance on various information retrieval tasks. However, the large number of parameters and complex self-attention operation come at a significant latency overhead. To remedy this, recent works propose late-interaction architectures, which allow pre-computation of intermediate document representations, thus reducing the runtime latency. Nonetheless, having solved the immediate latency issue, these methods now introduce storage costs and network fetching latency, which limits their adoption in real-life production systems. In this work, we propose the Succinct Document Representation (SDR) scheme that computes highly compressed intermediate document representations, mitigating the storage/network issue. Our approach first reduces the dimension of token representations by encoding them using a novel autoencoder architecture that uses the document's textual content in both the encoding and decoding phases. After this token encoding step, we further reduce the size of entire document representations using a modern quantization technique. Extensive evaluations on passage re-reranking on the MSMARCO dataset show that compared to existing approaches using compressed document representations, our method is highly efficient, achieving 4x-11.6x better compression rates for the same ranking quality.