Christian Geishauser


2021

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Domain-independent User Simulation with Transformers for Task-oriented Dialogue Systems
Hsien-chin Lin | Nurul Lubis | Songbo Hu | Carel van Niekerk | Christian Geishauser | Michael Heck | Shutong Feng | Milica Gasic
Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Dialogue policy optimisation via reinforcement learning requires a large number of training interactions, which makes learning with real users time consuming and expensive. Many set-ups therefore rely on a user simulator instead of humans. These user simulators have their own problems. While hand-coded, rule-based user simulators have been shown to be sufficient in small, simple domains, for complex domains the number of rules quickly becomes intractable. State-of-the-art data-driven user simulators, on the other hand, are still domain-dependent. This means that adaptation to each new domain requires redesigning and retraining. In this work, we propose a domain-independent transformer-based user simulator (TUS). The structure of TUS is not tied to a specific domain, enabling domain generalization and the learning of cross-domain user behaviour from data. We compare TUS with the state-of-the-art using automatic as well as human evaluations. TUS can compete with rule-based user simulators on pre-defined domains and is able to generalize to unseen domains in a zero-shot fashion.

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Uncertainty Measures in Neural Belief Tracking and the Effects on Dialogue Policy Performance
Carel van Niekerk | Andrey Malinin | Christian Geishauser | Michael Heck | Hsien-chin Lin | Nurul Lubis | Shutong Feng | Milica Gasic
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The ability to identify and resolve uncertainty is crucial for the robustness of a dialogue system. Indeed, this has been confirmed empirically on systems that utilise Bayesian approaches to dialogue belief tracking. However, such systems consider only confidence estimates and have difficulty scaling to more complex settings. Neural dialogue systems, on the other hand, rarely take uncertainties into account. They are therefore overconfident in their decisions and less robust. Moreover, the performance of the tracking task is often evaluated in isolation, without consideration of its effect on the downstream policy optimisation. We propose the use of different uncertainty measures in neural belief tracking. The effects of these measures on the downstream task of policy optimisation are evaluated by adding selected measures of uncertainty to the feature space of the policy and training policies through interaction with a user simulator. Both human and simulated user results show that incorporating these measures leads to improvements both of the performance and of the robustness of the downstream dialogue policy. This highlights the importance of developing neural dialogue belief trackers that take uncertainty into account.

2020

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LAVA: Latent Action Spaces via Variational Auto-encoding for Dialogue Policy Optimization
Nurul Lubis | Christian Geishauser | Michael Heck | Hsien-chin Lin | Marco Moresi | Carel van Niekerk | Milica Gasic
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Reinforcement learning (RL) can enable task-oriented dialogue systems to steer the conversation towards successful task completion. In an end-to-end setting, a response can be constructed in a word-level sequential decision making process with the entire system vocabulary as action space. Policies trained in such a fashion do not require expert-defined action spaces, but they have to deal with large action spaces and long trajectories, making RL impractical. Using the latent space of a variational model as action space alleviates this problem. However, current approaches use an uninformed prior for training and optimize the latent distribution solely on the context. It is therefore unclear whether the latent representation truly encodes the characteristics of different actions. In this paper, we explore three ways of leveraging an auxiliary task to shape the latent variable distribution: via pre-training, to obtain an informed prior, and via multitask learning. We choose response auto-encoding as the auxiliary task, as this captures the generative factors of dialogue responses while requiring low computational cost and neither additional data nor labels. Our approach yields a more action-characterized latent representations which support end-to-end dialogue policy optimization and achieves state-of-the-art success rates. These results warrant a more wide-spread use of RL in end-to-end dialogue models.

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Out-of-Task Training for Dialog State Tracking Models
Michael Heck | Christian Geishauser | Hsien-chin Lin | Nurul Lubis | Marco Moresi | Carel van Niekerk | Milica Gasic
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Dialog state tracking (DST) suffers from severe data sparsity. While many natural language processing (NLP) tasks benefit from transfer learning and multi-task learning, in dialog these methods are limited by the amount of available data and by the specificity of dialog applications. In this work, we successfully utilize non-dialog data from unrelated NLP tasks to train dialog state trackers. This opens the door to the abundance of unrelated NLP corpora to mitigate the data sparsity issue inherent to DST.

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Knowing What You Know: Calibrating Dialogue Belief State Distributions via Ensembles
Carel van Niekerk | Michael Heck | Christian Geishauser | Hsien-chin Lin | Nurul Lubis | Marco Moresi | Milica Gasic
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

The ability to accurately track what happens during a conversation is essential for the performance of a dialogue system. Current state-of-the-art multi-domain dialogue state trackers achieve just over 55% accuracy on the current go-to benchmark, which means that in almost every second dialogue turn they place full confidence in an incorrect dialogue state. Belief trackers, on the other hand, maintain a distribution over possible dialogue states. However, they lack in performance compared to dialogue state trackers, and do not produce well calibrated distributions. In this work we present state-of-the-art performance in calibration for multi-domain dialogue belief trackers using a calibrated ensemble of models. Our resulting dialogue belief tracker also outperforms previous dialogue belief tracking models in terms of accuracy.

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TripPy: A Triple Copy Strategy for Value Independent Neural Dialog State Tracking
Michael Heck | Carel van Niekerk | Nurul Lubis | Christian Geishauser | Hsien-Chin Lin | Marco Moresi | Milica Gasic
Proceedings of the 21th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Task-oriented dialog systems rely on dialog state tracking (DST) to monitor the user’s goal during the course of an interaction. Multi-domain and open-vocabulary settings complicate the task considerably and demand scalable solutions. In this paper we present a new approach to DST which makes use of various copy mechanisms to fill slots with values. Our model has no need to maintain a list of candidate values. Instead, all values are extracted from the dialog context on-the-fly. A slot is filled by one of three copy mechanisms: (1) Span prediction may extract values directly from the user input; (2) a value may be copied from a system inform memory that keeps track of the system’s inform operations (3) a value may be copied over from a different slot that is already contained in the dialog state to resolve coreferences within and across domains. Our approach combines the advantages of span-based slot filling methods with memory methods to avoid the use of value picklists altogether. We argue that our strategy simplifies the DST task while at the same time achieving state of the art performance on various popular evaluation sets including Multiwoz 2.1, where we achieve a joint goal accuracy beyond 55%.