Extending Conversational Agents for Task-Oriented Human-Computer Dialogue

Extending Conversational Agents for Task-Oriented Human-Computer Dialogue

Pierre Andrews (University of Trento, Italy) and Silvia Quarteroni (University of Trento, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-617-6.ch008
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Abstract

We present the role of conversational agents in two task-oriented human-computer dialogue applications: Interactive Question Answering and Persuasive Dialogue. We show that conversational agents can be effectively deployed for interaction that goes beyond user entertainment and can be successfully used as a means to achieve complex tasks. Conversational agents are a winning solution in Persuasive Dialogue because, combined with a planning infrastructure, they can help manage the parts of the dialogue that cannot be planned a priori and are primordial to keep the system persuasive. In Interactive Question Answering, conversational approaches lead users to the explicit formulation of queries, allow for the submission of further queries and accomodate related queries thanks to their ability to handle context.
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2. Background

A number of extensive analyses have been carried out, e.g. (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975), (Churcher, Atwell, & Souter, 1997) and (Lewin et al., 2000), to identify the main types of human conversation based on their features and objectives. Among these, task-oriented dialogue (one subclass of which is information-seeking dialogue) is the most widely reproduced in the context of human-computer systems. Indeed, both Interactive Question Answering and Persuasive dialogue can be considered as forms of task-oriented dialogue.

Since we argue that conversational agents can be effectively used for task-oriented dialogue, the remainder of this section outlines the main features and challenges of modelling and reproducing this type of interaction and discusses related work specifically in the fields of Persuasive Dialogue and Interactive Question Answering.

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