Clarifying user needs is essential for existing task-oriented dialogue systems. However, in real-world applications, developers can never guarantee that all possible user demands are taken into account in the design phase. Consequently, existing systems will break down when encountering unconsidered user needs. To address this problem, we propose a novel incremental learning framework to design task-oriented dialogue systems, or for short Incremental Dialogue System (IDS), without pre-defining the exhaustive list of user needs. Specifically, we introduce an uncertainty estimation module to evaluate the confidence of giving correct responses. If there is high confidence, IDS will provide responses to users. Otherwise, humans will be involved in the dialogue process, and IDS can learn from human intervention through an online learning module. To evaluate our method, we propose a new dataset which simulates unanticipated user needs in the deployment stage. Experiments show that IDS is robust to unconsidered user actions, and can update itself online by smartly selecting only the most effective training data, and hence attains better performance with less annotation cost.
To deploy a spoken language understanding (SLU) model to a new language, language transferring is desired to avoid the trouble of acquiring and labeling a new big SLU corpus. An SLU corpus is a monolingual corpus with domain/intent/slot labels. Translating the original SLU corpus into the target language is an attractive strategy. However, SLU corpora consist of plenty of semantic labels (slots), which general-purpose translators cannot handle well, not to mention additional culture differences. This paper focuses on the language transferring task given a small in-domain parallel SLU corpus. The in-domain parallel corpus can be used as the first adaptation on the general translator. But more importantly, we show how to use reinforcement learning (RL) to further adapt the adapted translator, where translated sentences with more proper slot tags receive higher rewards. Our reward is derived from the source input sentence exclusively, unlike reward via actor-critical methods or computing reward with a ground truth target sentence. Hence we can adapt the translator the second time, using the big monolingual SLU corpus from the source language. We evaluate our approach on Chinese to English language transferring for SLU systems. The experimental results show that the generated English SLU corpus via adaptation and reinforcement learning gives us over 97% in the slot F1 score and over 84% accuracy in domain classification. It demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed language transferring method. Compared with naive translation, our proposed method improves domain classification accuracy by relatively 22%, and the slot filling F1 score by relatively more than 71%.
Reinforcement learning (RL) is an attractive solution for task-oriented dialog systems. However, extending RL-based systems to handle new intents and slots requires a system redesign. The high maintenance cost makes it difficult to apply RL methods to practical systems on a large scale. To address this issue, we propose a practical teacher-student framework to extend RL-based dialog systems without retraining from scratch. Specifically, the “student” is an extended dialog manager based on a new ontology, and the “teacher” is existing resources used for guiding the learning process of the “student”. By specifying constraints held in the new dialog manager, we transfer knowledge of the “teacher” to the “student” without additional resources. Experiments show that the performance of the extended system is comparable to the system trained from scratch. More importantly, the proposed framework makes no assumption about the unsupported intents and slots, which makes it possible to improve RL-based systems incrementally.
This paper describes the Microsoft Research (MSR) system for the evaluation campaign of the 2011 international workshop on spoken language translation. The evaluation task is to translate TED talks (www.ted.com). This task presents two unique challenges: First, the underlying topic switches sharply from talk to talk. Therefore, the translation system needs to adapt to the current topic quickly and dynamically. Second, only a very small amount of relevant parallel data (transcripts of TED talks) is available. Therefore, it is necessary to perform accurate translation model estimation with limited data. In the preparation for the evaluation, we developed two new methods to attack these problems. Specifically, we developed an unsupervised topic modeling based adaption method for machine translation models. We also developed a discriminative training method to estimate parameters in the generative components of the translation models with limited data. Experimental results show that both methods improve the translation quality. Among all the submissions, ours achieves the best BLEU score in the machine translation Chinese-to-English track (MT_CE) of the IWSLT 2011 evaluation that we participated.