Piero Molino


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Controllable Text Generation with Focused Variation
Lei Shu | Alexandros Papangelis | Yi-Chia Wang | Gokhan Tur | Hu Xu | Zhaleh Feizollahi | Bing Liu | Piero Molino
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

This work introduces Focused-Variation Network (FVN), a novel model to control language generation. The main problems in previous controlled language generation models range from the difficulty of generating text according to the given attributes, to the lack of diversity of the generated texts. FVN addresses these issues by learning disjoint discrete latent spaces for each attribute inside codebooks, which allows for both controllability and diversity, while at the same time generating fluent text. We evaluate FVN on two text generation datasets with annotated content and style, and show state-of-the-art performance as assessed by automatic and human evaluations.


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Modeling Multi-Action Policy for Task-Oriented Dialogues
Lei Shu | Hu Xu | Bing Liu | Piero Molino
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Dialogue management (DM) plays a key role in the quality of the interaction with the user in a task-oriented dialogue system. In most existing approaches, the agent predicts only one DM policy action per turn. This significantly limits the expressive power of the conversational agent and introduces unwanted turns of interactions that may challenge users’ patience. Longer conversations also lead to more errors and the system needs to be more robust to handle them. In this paper, we compare the performance of several models on the task of predicting multiple acts for each turn. A novel policy model is proposed based on a recurrent cell called gated Continue-Act-Slots (gCAS) that overcomes the limitations of the existing models. Experimental results show that gCAS outperforms other approaches. The datasets and code are available at https://leishu02.github.io/.

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Collaborative Multi-Agent Dialogue Model Training Via Reinforcement Learning
Alexandros Papangelis | Yi-Chia Wang | Piero Molino | Gokhan Tur
Proceedings of the 20th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

Some of the major challenges in training conversational agents include the lack of large-scale data of real-world complexity, defining appropriate evaluation measures, and managing meaningful conversations across many topics over long periods of time. Moreover, most works tend to assume that the conversational agent’s environment is stationary, a somewhat strong assumption. To remove this assumption and overcome the lack of data, we take a step away from the traditional training pipeline and model the conversation as a stochastic collaborative game. Each agent (player) has a role (“assistant”, “tourist”, “eater”, etc.) and their own objectives, and can only interact via language they generate. Each agent, therefore, needs to learn to operate optimally in an environment with multiple sources of uncertainty (its own LU and LG, the other agent’s LU, Policy, and LG). In this work, we present the first complete attempt at concurrently training conversational agents that communicate only via self-generated language and show that they outperform supervised and deep learning baselines.

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Flexibly-Structured Model for Task-Oriented Dialogues
Lei Shu | Piero Molino | Mahdi Namazifar | Hu Xu | Bing Liu | Huaixiu Zheng | Gokhan Tur
Proceedings of the 20th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

This paper proposes a novel end-to-end architecture for task-oriented dialogue systems. It is based on a simple and practical yet very effective sequence-to-sequence approach, where language understanding and state tracking tasks are modeled jointly with a structured copy-augmented sequential decoder and a multi-label decoder for each slot. The policy engine and language generation tasks are modeled jointly following that. The copy-augmented sequential decoder deals with new or unknown values in the conversation, while the multi-label decoder combined with the sequential decoder ensures the explicit assignment of values to slots. On the generation part, slot binary classifiers are used to improve performance. This architecture is scalable to real-world scenarios and is shown through an empirical evaluation to achieve state-of-the-art performance on both the Cambridge Restaurant dataset and the Stanford in-car assistant dataset.

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Parallax: Visualizing and Understanding the Semantics of Embedding Spaces via Algebraic Formulae
Piero Molino | Yang Wang | Jiawei Zhang
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

Embeddings are a fundamental component of many modern machine learning and natural language processing models. Understanding them and visualizing them is essential for gathering insights about the information they capture and the behavior of the models. In this paper, we introduce Parallax, a tool explicitly designed for this task. Parallax allows the user to use both state-of-the-art embedding analysis methods (PCA and t-SNE) and a simple yet effective task-oriented approach where users can explicitly define the axes of the projection through algebraic formulae. %consists in projecting them in two-dimensional planes without any interpretable semantics associated to the axes of the projection, which makes detailed analyses and comparison among multiple sets of embeddings challenging. In this approach, embeddings are projected into a semantically meaningful subspace, which enhances interpretability and allows for more fine-grained analysis. We demonstrate the power of the tool and the proposed methodology through a series of case studies and a user study.