Rafael Ferreira


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Plan-Grounded Large Language Models for Dual Goal Conversational Settings
Diogo Glória-Silva | Rafael Ferreira | Diogo Tavares | David Semedo | Joao Magalhaes
Proceedings of the 18th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Training Large Language Models (LLMs) to follow user instructions has shown to supply the LLM with ample capacity to converse fluently while being aligned with humans. Yet, it is not completely clear how an LLM can lead a plan-grounded conversation in mixed-initiative settings where instructions flow in both directions of the conversation, i.e. both the LLM and the user provide instructions to one another. In this paper, we tackle a dual goal mixed-initiative conversational setting where the LLM not only grounds the conversation on an arbitrary plan but also seeks to satisfy both a procedural plan and user instructions. The LLM is then responsible for guiding the user through the plan and, at the same time, adapting to new circumstances, answering questions, and activating safety guardrails when needed. We propose a novel LLM that grounds the dialogue on a procedural plan, can take the dialogue initiative, and enforces guardrails on the system’s behavior, while also improving the LLM’s responses to unexpected user behavior. Experiments in controlled settings and with real users show that the best-performing model, which we call PlanLLM, achieves a 2.1x improvement over a strong baseline. Moreover, experiments also show good generalization to unseen domains.


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Grounded Complex Task Segmentation for Conversational Assistants
Rafael Ferreira | David Semedo | Joao Magalhaes
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Following complex instructions in conversational assistants can be quite daunting due to the shorter attention and memory spans when compared to reading the same instructions. Hence, when conversational assistants walk users through the steps of complex tasks, there is a need to structure the task into manageable pieces of information of the right length and complexity. In this paper, we tackle the recipes domain and convert reading structured instructions into conversational structured ones. We annotated the structure of instructions according to a conversational scenario, which provided insights into what is expected in this setting. To computationally model the conversational step’s characteristics, we tested various Transformer-based architectures, showing that a token-based approach delivers the best results. A further user study showed that users tend to favor steps of manageable complexity and length, and that the proposed methodology can improve the original web-based instructional text. Specifically, 86% of the evaluated tasks were improved from a conversational suitability point of view.

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The Wizard of Curiosities: Enriching Dialogues with Fun Facts
Frederico Vicente | Rafael Ferreira | David Semedo | Joao Magalhaes
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Introducing curiosities in a conversation is a way to teach something new to the person in a pleasant and enjoyable way. Enriching dialogues with contextualized curiosities can improve the users’ perception of a dialog system and their overall user experience. In this paper, we introduce a set of curated curiosities, targeting dialogues in the cooking and DIY domains. In particular, we use real human-agent conversations collected in the context of the Amazon Alexa TaskBot challenge, a multimodal and multi-turn conversational setting. According to an A/B test with over 1000 conversations, curiosities not only increase user engagement, but provide an average relative rating improvement of 9.7%.