Ashwin Paranjape


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When can I Speak? Predicting initiation points for spoken dialogue agents
Siyan Li | Ashwin Paranjape | Christopher Manning
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Current spoken dialogue systems initiate their turns after a long period of silence (700-1000ms), which leads to little real-time feedback, sluggish responses, and an overall stilted conversational flow. Humans typically respond within 200ms and successfully predicting initiation points in advance would allow spoken dialogue agents to do the same. In this work, we predict the lead-time to initiation using prosodic features from a pre-trained speech representation model (wav2vec 1.0) operating on user audio and word features from a pre-trained language model (GPT-2) operating on incremental transcriptions. To evaluate errors, we propose two metrics w.r.t. predicted and true lead times. We train and evaluate the models on the Switchboard Corpus and find that our method outperforms features from prior work on both metrics and vastly outperforms the common approach of waiting for 700ms of silence.

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Neural Generation Meets Real People: Building a Social, Informative Open-Domain Dialogue Agent
Ethan A. Chi | Ashwin Paranjape | Abigail See | Caleb Chiam | Trenton Chang | Kathleen Kenealy | Swee Kiat Lim | Amelia Hardy | Chetanya Rastogi | Haojun Li | Alexander Iyabor | Yutong He | Hari Sowrirajan | Peng Qi | Kaushik Ram Sadagopan | Nguyet Minh Phu | Dilara Soylu | Jillian Tang | Avanika Narayan | Giovanni Campagna | Christopher Manning
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

We present Chirpy Cardinal, an open-domain social chatbot. Aiming to be both informative and conversational, our bot chats with users in an authentic, emotionally intelligent way. By integrating controlled neural generation with scaffolded, hand-written dialogue, we let both the user and bot take turns driving the conversation, producing an engaging and socially fluent experience. Deployed in the fourth iteration of the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, Chirpy Cardinal handled thousands of conversations per day, placing second out of nine bots with an average user rating of 3.58/5.

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You Only Need One Model for Open-domain Question Answering
Haejun Lee | Akhil Kedia | Jongwon Lee | Ashwin Paranjape | Christopher Manning | Kyoung-Gu Woo
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Recent approaches to Open-domain Question Answering refer to an external knowledge base using a retriever model, optionally rerank passages with a separate reranker model and generate an answer using another reader model. Despite performing related tasks, the models have separate parameters and are weakly-coupled during training. We propose casting the retriever and the reranker as internal passage-wise attention mechanisms applied sequentially within the transformer architecture and feeding computed representations to the reader, with the hidden representations progressively refined at each stage. This allows us to use a single question answering model trained end-to-end, which is a more efficient use of model capacity and also leads to better gradient flow. We present a pre-training method to effectively train this architecture and evaluate our model on the Natural Questions and TriviaQA open datasets. For a fixed parameter budget, our model outperforms the previous state-of-the-art model by 1.0 and 0.7 exact match scores.


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Effective Social Chatbot Strategies for Increasing User Initiative
Amelia Hardy | Ashwin Paranjape | Christopher Manning
Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Many existing chatbots do not effectively support mixed initiative, forcing their users to either respond passively or lead constantly. We seek to improve this experience by introducing new mechanisms to encourage user initiative in social chatbot conversations. Since user initiative in this setting is distinct from initiative in human-human or task-oriented dialogue, we first propose a new definition that accounts for the unique behaviors users take in this context. Drawing from linguistics, we propose three mechanisms to promote user initiative: back-channeling, personal disclosure, and replacing questions with statements. We show that simple automatic metrics of utterance length, number of noun phrases, and diversity of user responses correlate with human judgement of initiative. Finally, we use these metrics to suggest that these strategies do result in statistically significant increases in user initiative, where frequent, but not excessive, back-channeling is the most effective strategy.

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Human-like informative conversations: Better acknowledgements using conditional mutual information
Ashwin Paranjape | Christopher Manning
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

This work aims to build a dialogue agent that can weave new factual content into conversations as naturally as humans. We draw insights from linguistic principles of conversational analysis and annotate human-human conversations from the Switchboard Dialog Act Corpus to examine humans strategies for acknowledgement, transition, detail selection and presentation. When current chatbots (explicitly provided with new factual content) introduce facts into a conversation, their generated responses do not acknowledge the prior turns. This is because models trained with two contexts - new factual content and conversational history - generate responses that are non-specific w.r.t. one of the contexts, typically the conversational history. We show that specificity w.r.t. conversational history is better captured by pointwise conditional mutual information (pcmi_h) than by the established use of pointwise mutual information (pmi). Our proposed method, Fused-PCMI, trades off pmi for pcmi_h and is preferred by humans for overall quality over the Max-PMI baseline 60% of the time. Human evaluators also judge responses with higher pcmi_h better at acknowledgement 74% of the time. The results demonstrate that systems mimicking human conversational traits (in this case acknowledgement) improve overall quality and more broadly illustrate the utility of linguistic principles in improving dialogue agents.


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Importance sampling for unbiased on-demand evaluation of knowledge base population
Arun Chaganty | Ashwin Paranjape | Percy Liang | Christopher D. Manning
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Knowledge base population (KBP) systems take in a large document corpus and extract entities and their relations. Thus far, KBP evaluation has relied on judgements on the pooled predictions of existing systems. We show that this evaluation is problematic: when a new system predicts a previously unseen relation, it is penalized even if it is correct. This leads to significant bias against new systems, which counterproductively discourages innovation in the field. Our first contribution is a new importance-sampling based evaluation which corrects for this bias by annotating a new system’s predictions on-demand via crowdsourcing. We show this eliminates bias and reduces variance using data from the 2015 TAC KBP task. Our second contribution is an implementation of our method made publicly available as an online KBP evaluation service. We pilot the service by testing diverse state-of-the-art systems on the TAC KBP 2016 corpus and obtain accurate scores in a cost effective manner.