Touhidul Alam


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Enhancing Pipeline-Based Conversational Agents with Large Language Models
Mina Foosherian | Hendrik Purwins | Purna Rathnayake | Touhidul Alam | Rui Teimao | Klaus-Dieter Thoben
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Taming Large Language Models: Controllability in the era of Interactive Assistants!

The latest advancements in AI and deep learning have led to a breakthrough in large language model (LLM)-based agents such as GPT-4. However, many commercial conversational agent development tools are pipeline-based and have limitations in holding a human-like conversation. This paper investigates the capabilities of LLMs to enhance pipeline-based conversational agents during two phases: 1) in the design and development phase and 2) during operations. In 1) LLMs can aid in generating training data, extracting entities and synonyms, localization, and persona design. In 2) LLMs can assist in contextualization, intent classification to prevent conversational breakdown and handle out-of-scope questions, auto-correcting utterances, rephrasing responses, formulating disambiguation questions, summarization, and enabling closed question-answering capabilities. We conducted informal experiments with GPT-4 in the private banking domain to demonstrate the scenarios above with a practical example. Companies may be hesitant to replace their pipeline-based agents with LLMs entirely due to privacy concerns and the need for deep integration within their existing ecosystems. A hybrid approach in which LLMs’ are integrated into the pipeline-based agents allows them to save time and costs of building and running agents by capitalizing on the capabilities of LLMs while retaining the integration and privacy safeguards of their existing systems.


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New Domain, Major Effort? How Much Data is Necessary to Adapt a Temporal Tagger to the Voice Assistant Domain
Touhidul Alam | Alessandra Zarcone | Sebastian Padó
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS)

Reliable tagging of Temporal Expressions (TEs, e.g., Book a table at L’Osteria for Sunday evening) is a central requirement for Voice Assistants (VAs). However, there is a dearth of resources and systems for the VA domain, since publicly-available temporal taggers are trained only on substantially different domains, such as news and clinical text. Since the cost of annotating large datasets is prohibitive, we investigate the trade-off between in-domain data and performance in DA-Time, a hybrid temporal tagger for the English VA domain which combines a neural architecture for robust TE recognition, with a parser-based TE normalizer. We find that transfer learning goes a long way even with as little as 25 in-domain sentences: DA-Time performs at the state of the art on the news domain, and substantially outperforms it on the VA domain.


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PATE: A Corpus of Temporal Expressions for the In-car Voice Assistant Domain
Alessandra Zarcone | Touhidul Alam | Zahra Kolagar
Proceedings of the Twelfth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

The recognition and automatic annotation of temporal expressions (e.g. “Add an event for tomorrow evening at eight to my calendar”) is a key module for AI voice assistants, in order to allow them to interact with apps (for example, a calendar app). However, in the NLP literature, research on temporal expressions has focused mostly on data from the news, from the clinical domain, and from social media. The voice assistant domain is very different than the typical domains that have been the focus of work on temporal expression identification, thus requiring a dedicated data collection. We present a crowdsourcing method for eliciting natural-language commands containing temporal expressions for an AI voice assistant, by using pictures and scenario descriptions. We annotated the elicited commands (480) as well as the commands in the Snips dataset following the TimeML/TIMEX3 annotation guidelines, reaching a total of 1188 annotated commands. The commands can be later used to train the NLU components of an AI voice assistant.