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"chatbots": models, code, and papers

A Generate-Validate Approach to Answering Questions about Qualitative Relationships

Aug 09, 2019
Arindam Mitra, Chitta Baral, Aurgho Bhattacharjee, Ishan Shrivastava

Qualitative relationships describe how increasing or decreasing one property (e.g. altitude) affects another (e.g. temperature). They are an important aspect of natural language question answering and are crucial for building chatbots or voice agents where one may enquire about qualitative relationships. Recently a dataset about question answering involving qualitative relationships has been proposed, and a few approaches to answer such questions have been explored, in the heart of which lies a semantic parser that converts the natural language input to a suitable logical form. A problem with existing semantic parsers is that they try to directly convert the input sentences to a logical form. Since the output language varies with each application, it forces the semantic parser to learn almost everything from scratch. In this paper, we show that instead of using a semantic parser to produce the logical form, if we apply the generate-validate framework i.e. generate a natural language description of the logical form and validate if the natural language description is followed from the input text, we get a better scope for transfer learning and our method outperforms the state-of-the-art by a large margin of 7.93%.

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Topic Aware Neural Response Generation

Sep 19, 2016
Chen Xing, Wei Wu, Yu Wu, Jie Liu, Yalou Huang, Ming Zhou, Wei-Ying Ma

We consider incorporating topic information into the sequence-to-sequence framework to generate informative and interesting responses for chatbots. To this end, we propose a topic aware sequence-to-sequence (TA-Seq2Seq) model. The model utilizes topics to simulate prior knowledge of human that guides them to form informative and interesting responses in conversation, and leverages the topic information in generation by a joint attention mechanism and a biased generation probability. The joint attention mechanism summarizes the hidden vectors of an input message as context vectors by message attention, synthesizes topic vectors by topic attention from the topic words of the message obtained from a pre-trained LDA model, and let these vectors jointly affect the generation of words in decoding. To increase the possibility of topic words appearing in responses, the model modifies the generation probability of topic words by adding an extra probability item to bias the overall distribution. Empirical study on both automatic evaluation metrics and human annotations shows that TA-Seq2Seq can generate more informative and interesting responses, and significantly outperform the-state-of-the-art response generation models.

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Understanding Natural Language in Context

May 25, 2022
Avichai Levy, Erez Karpas

Recent years have seen an increasing number of applications that have a natural language interface, either in the form of chatbots or via personal assistants such as Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant, Siri (Apple), and Cortana (Microsoft). To use these applications, a basic dialog between the robot and the human is required. While this kind of dialog exists today mainly within "static" robots that do not make any movement in the household space, the challenge of reasoning about the information conveyed by the environment increases significantly when dealing with robots that can move and manipulate objects in our home environment. In this paper, we focus on cognitive robots, which have some knowledge-based models of the world and operate by reasoning and planning with this model. Thus, when the robot and the human communicate, there is already some formalism they can use - the robot's knowledge representation formalism. Our goal in this research is to translate natural language utterances into this robot's formalism, allowing much more complicated household tasks to be completed. We do so by combining off-the-shelf SOTA language models, planning tools, and the robot's knowledge-base for better communication. In addition, we analyze different directive types and illustrate the contribution of the world's context to the translation process.

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MDD-Eval: Self-Training on Augmented Data for Multi-Domain Dialogue Evaluation

Dec 14, 2021
Chen Zhang, Luis Fernando D'Haro, Thomas Friedrichs, Haizhou Li

Chatbots are designed to carry out human-like conversations across different domains, such as general chit-chat, knowledge exchange, and persona-grounded conversations. To measure the quality of such conversational agents, a dialogue evaluator is expected to conduct assessment across domains as well. However, most of the state-of-the-art automatic dialogue evaluation metrics (ADMs) are not designed for multi-domain evaluation. We are motivated to design a general and robust framework, MDD-Eval, to address the problem. Specifically, we first train a teacher evaluator with human-annotated data to acquire a rating skill to tell good dialogue responses from bad ones in a particular domain and then, adopt a self-training strategy to train a new evaluator with teacher-annotated multi-domain data, that helps the new evaluator to generalize across multiple domains. MDD-Eval is extensively assessed on six dialogue evaluation benchmarks. Empirical results show that the MDD-Eval framework achieves a strong performance with an absolute improvement of 7% over the state-of-the-art ADMs in terms of mean Spearman correlation scores across all the evaluation benchmarks.

* Accepted to AAAI2022 (10 pages, 3 figures, Preprint version) 
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Biomedical Question Answering: A Comprehensive Review

Feb 10, 2021
Qiao Jin, Zheng Yuan, Guangzhi Xiong, Qianlan Yu, Chuanqi Tan, Mosha Chen, Songfang Huang, Xiaozhong Liu, Sheng Yu

Question Answering (QA) is a benchmark Natural Language Processing (NLP) task where models predict the answer for a given question using related documents, images, knowledge bases and question-answer pairs. Automatic QA has been successfully applied in various domains like search engines and chatbots. However, for specific domains like biomedicine, QA systems are still rarely used in real-life settings. Biomedical QA (BQA), as an emerging QA task, enables innovative applications to effectively perceive, access and understand complex biomedical knowledge. In this work, we provide a critical review of recent efforts in BQA. We comprehensively investigate prior BQA approaches, which are classified into 6 major methodologies (open-domain, knowledge base, information retrieval, machine reading comprehension, question entailment and visual QA), 4 topics of contents (scientific, clinical, consumer health and examination) and 5 types of formats (yes/no, extraction, generation, multi-choice and retrieval). In the end, we highlight several key challenges of BQA and explore potential directions for future works.

* Draft 
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Text Style Transfer for Bias Mitigation using Masked Language Modeling

Jan 21, 2022
Ewoenam Kwaku Tokpo, Toon Calders

It is well known that textual data on the internet and other digital platforms contain significant levels of bias and stereotypes. Although many such texts contain stereotypes and biases that inherently exist in natural language for reasons that are not necessarily malicious, there are crucial reasons to mitigate these biases. For one, these texts are being used as training corpus to train language models for salient applications like cv-screening, search engines, and chatbots; such applications are turning out to produce discriminatory results. Also, several research findings have concluded that biased texts have significant effects on the target demographic groups. For instance, masculine-worded job advertisements tend to be less appealing to female applicants. In this paper, we present a text style transfer model that can be used to automatically debias textual data. Our style transfer model improves on the limitations of many existing style transfer techniques such as loss of content information. Our model solves such issues by combining latent content encoding with explicit keyword replacement. We will show that this technique produces better content preservation whilst maintaining good style transfer accuracy.

* 9 pages, 3 figures, 5 tables 
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Conversational Agents in Software Engineering: Survey, Taxonomy and Challenges

Jun 21, 2021
Quim Motger, Xavier Franch, Jordi Marco

The use of natural language interfaces in the field of human-computer interaction is undergoing intense study through dedicated scientific and industrial research. The latest contributions in the field, including deep learning approaches like recurrent neural networks, the potential of context-aware strategies and user-centred design approaches, have brought back the attention of the community to software-based dialogue systems, generally known as conversational agents or chatbots. Nonetheless, and given the novelty of the field, a generic, context-independent overview on the current state of research of conversational agents covering all research perspectives involved is missing. Motivated by this context, this paper reports a survey of the current state of research of conversational agents through a systematic literature review of secondary studies. The conducted research is designed to develop an exhaustive perspective through a clear presentation of the aggregated knowledge published by recent literature within a variety of domains, research focuses and contexts. As a result, this research proposes a holistic taxonomy of the different dimensions involved in the conversational agents' field, which is expected to help researchers and to lay the groundwork for future research in the field of natural language interfaces.

* 37 pages, 15 figures, 2 tables, submitted to journal 
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InstructableCrowd: Creating IF-THEN Rules for Smartphones via Conversations with the Crowd

Sep 12, 2019
Ting-Hao 'Kenneth' Huang, Amos Azaria, Oscar J. Romero, Jeffrey P. Bigham

Natural language interfaces have become a common part of modern digital life. Chatbots utilize text-based conversations to communicate with users; personal assistants on smartphones such as Google Assistant take direct speech commands from their users; and speech-controlled devices such as Amazon Echo use voice as their only input mode. In this paper, we introduce InstructableCrowd, a crowd-powered system that allows users to program their devices via conversation. The user verbally expresses a problem to the system, in which a group of crowd workers collectively respond and program relevant multi-part IF-THEN rules to help the user. The IF-THEN rules generated by InstructableCrowd connect relevant sensor combinations (e.g., location, weather, device acceleration, etc.) to useful effectors (e.g., text messages, device alarms, etc.). Our study showed that non-programmers can use the conversational interface of InstructableCrowd to create IF-THEN rules that have similar quality compared with the rules created manually. InstructableCrowd generally illustrates how users may converse with their devices, not only to trigger simple voice commands, but also to personalize their increasingly powerful and complicated devices.

* Human Computation (2019) 6:1:113-146 
* Published at Human Computation (2019) 6:1:113-146 
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A Graph Reasoning Network for Multi-turn Response Selection via Customized Pre-training

Jan 15, 2021
Yongkang Liu, Shi Feng, Daling Wang, Kaisong Song, Feiliang Ren, Yifei Zhang

We investigate response selection for multi-turn conversation in retrieval-based chatbots. Existing studies pay more attention to the matching between utterances and responses by calculating the matching score based on learned features, leading to insufficient model reasoning ability. In this paper, we propose a graph-reasoning network (GRN) to address the problem. GRN first conducts pre-training based on ALBERT using next utterance prediction and utterance order prediction tasks specifically devised for response selection. These two customized pre-training tasks can endow our model with the ability of capturing semantical and chronological dependency between utterances. We then fine-tune the model on an integrated network with sequence reasoning and graph reasoning structures. The sequence reasoning module conducts inference based on the highly summarized context vector of utterance-response pairs from the global perspective. The graph reasoning module conducts the reasoning on the utterance-level graph neural network from the local perspective. Experiments on two conversational reasoning datasets show that our model can dramatically outperform the strong baseline methods and can achieve performance which is close to human-level.

* Accepted by AAAI 2021;10 pages,6 figures 
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