Building socialbots that can have deep, engaging open-domain conversations with humans is one of the grand challenges of artificial intelligence (AI). To this end, bots need to be able to leverage world knowledge spanning several domains effectively when conversing with humans who have their own world knowledge. Existing knowledge-grounded conversation datasets are primarily stylized with explicit roles for conversation partners. These datasets also do not explore depth or breadth of topical coverage with transitions in conversations. We introduce Topical-Chat, a knowledge-grounded human-human conversation dataset where the underlying knowledge spans 8 broad topics and conversation partners don't have explicitly defined roles, to help further research in open-domain conversational AI. We also train several state-of-the-art encoder-decoder conversational models on Topical-Chat and perform automated and human evaluation for benchmarking.
* arXiving an old paper accepted at INTERSPEECH 2019
The Alexa Prize program has empowered numerous university students to explore, experiment, and showcase their talents in building conversational agents through challenges like the SocialBot Grand Challenge and the TaskBot Challenge. As conversational agents increasingly appear in multimodal and embodied contexts, it is important to explore the affordances of conversational interaction augmented with computer vision and physical embodiment. This paper describes the SimBot Challenge, a new challenge in which university teams compete to build robot assistants that complete tasks in a simulated physical environment. This paper provides an overview of the SimBot Challenge, which included both online and offline challenge phases. We describe the infrastructure and support provided to the teams including Alexa Arena, the simulated environment, and the ML toolkit provided to teams to accelerate their building of vision and language models. We summarize the approaches the participating teams took to overcome research challenges and extract key lessons learned. Finally, we provide analysis of the performance of the competing SimBots during the competition.
Task-oriented Dialogue (TOD) Systems aim to build dialogue systems that assist users in accomplishing specific goals, such as booking a hotel or a restaurant. Traditional TODs rely on domain-specific APIs/DBs or external factual knowledge to generate responses, which cannot accommodate subjective user requests (e.g., "Is the WIFI reliable?" or "Does the restaurant have a good atmosphere?"). To address this issue, we propose a novel task of subjective-knowledge-based TOD (SK-TOD). We also propose the first corresponding dataset, which contains subjective knowledge-seeking dialogue contexts and manually annotated responses grounded in subjective knowledge sources. When evaluated with existing TOD approaches, we find that this task poses new challenges such as aggregating diverse opinions from multiple knowledge snippets. We hope this task and dataset can promote further research on TOD and subjective content understanding. The code and the dataset are available at https://github.com/alexa/dstc11-track5.
Task planning is an important component of traditional robotics systems enabling robots to compose fine grained skills to perform more complex tasks. Recent work building systems for translating natural language to executable actions for task completion in simulated embodied agents is focused on directly predicting low level action sequences that would be expected to be directly executable by a physical robot. In this work, we instead focus on predicting a higher level plan representation for one such embodied task completion dataset - TEACh, under the assumption that techniques for high-level plan prediction from natural language are expected to be more transferable to physical robot systems. We demonstrate that better plans can be predicted using multimodal context, and that plan prediction and plan execution modules are likely dependent on each other and hence it may not be ideal to fully decouple them. Further, we benchmark execution of oracle plans to quantify the scope for improvement in plan prediction models.
Conversational, multi-turn, text-to-SQL (CoSQL) tasks map natural language utterances in a dialogue to SQL queries. State-of-the-art (SOTA) systems use large, pre-trained and finetuned language models, such as the T5-family, in conjunction with constrained decoding. With multi-tasking (MT) over coherent tasks with discrete prompts during training, we improve over specialized text-to-SQL T5-family models. Based on Oracle analyses over n-best hypotheses, we apply a query plan model and a schema linking algorithm as rerankers. Combining MT and reranking, our results using T5-3B show absolute accuracy improvements of 1.0% in exact match and 3.4% in execution match over a SOTA baseline on CoSQL. While these gains consistently manifest at turn level, context dependent turns are considerably harder. We conduct studies to tease apart errors attributable to domain and compositional generalization, with the latter remaining a challenge for multi-turn conversations, especially in generating SQL with unseen parse trees.
Collecting high quality conversational data can be very expensive for most applications and infeasible for others due to privacy, ethical, or similar concerns. A promising direction to tackle this problem is to generate synthetic dialogues by prompting large language models. In this work, we use a small set of expert-written conversations as in-context examples to synthesize a social conversation dataset using prompting. We perform several thorough evaluations of our synthetic conversations compared to human-collected conversations. This includes various dimensions of conversation quality with human evaluation directly on the synthesized conversations, and interactive human evaluation of chatbots fine-tuned on the synthetically generated dataset. We additionally demonstrate that this prompting approach is generalizable to multi-party conversations, providing potential to create new synthetic data for multi-party tasks. Our synthetic multi-party conversations were rated more favorably across all measured dimensions compared to conversation excerpts sampled from a human-collected multi-party dataset.
Dot-product attention is a core module in the present generation of neural network models, particularly transformers, and is being leveraged across numerous areas such as natural language processing and computer vision. This attention module is comprised of three linear transformations, namely query, key, and value linear transformations, each of which has a bias term. In this work, we study the role of these bias terms, and mathematically show that the bias term of the key linear transformation is redundant and could be omitted without any impact on the attention module. Moreover, we argue that the bias term of the value linear transformation has a more prominent role than that of the bias term of the query linear transformation. We empirically verify these findings through multiple experiments on language modeling, natural language understanding, and natural language generation tasks.
This work focuses on in-context data augmentation for intent detection. Having found that augmentation via in-context prompting of large pre-trained language models (PLMs) alone does not improve performance, we introduce a novel approach based on PLMs and pointwise V-information (PVI), a metric that can measure the usefulness of a datapoint for training a model. Our method first fine-tunes a PLM on a small seed of training data and then synthesizes new datapoints - utterances that correspond to given intents. It then employs intent-aware filtering, based on PVI, to remove datapoints that are not helpful to the downstream intent classifier. Our method is thus able to leverage the expressive power of large language models to produce diverse training data. Empirical results demonstrate that our method can produce synthetic training data that achieve state-of-the-art performance on three challenging intent detection datasets under few-shot settings (1.28% absolute improvement in 5-shot and 1.18% absolute in 10-shot, on average) and perform on par with the state-of-the-art in full-shot settings (within 0.01% absolute, on average).
Dialogue models are able to generate coherent and fluent responses, but they can still be challenging to control and may produce non-engaging, unsafe results. This unpredictability diminishes user trust and can hinder the use of the models in the real world. To address this, we introduce DialGuide, a novel framework for controlling dialogue model behavior using natural language rules, or guidelines. These guidelines provide information about the context they are applicable to and what should be included in the response, allowing the models to generate responses that are more closely aligned with the developer's expectations and intent. We evaluate DialGuide on three tasks in open-domain dialogue response generation: guideline selection, response generation, and response entailment verification. Our dataset contains 10,737 positive and 15,467 negative dialogue context-response-guideline triplets across two domains - chit-chat and safety. We provide baseline models for the tasks and benchmark their performance. We also demonstrate that DialGuide is effective in the dialogue safety domain, producing safe and engaging responses that follow developer guidelines.