CUED Publications database

Natural actor and belief critic: Reinforcement algorithm for learning parameters of dialogue systems modelled as POMDPs

Jurčíček, F and Thomson, B and Young, S (2011) Natural actor and belief critic: Reinforcement algorithm for learning parameters of dialogue systems modelled as POMDPs. ACM Transactions on Speech and Language Processing, 7. ISSN 1550-4875

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Abstract

This article presents a novel algorithm for learning parameters in statistical dialogue systems which are modeled as Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs). The three main components of a POMDP dialogue manager are a dialogue model representing dialogue state information; a policy that selects the system's responses based on the inferred state; and a reward function that specifies the desired behavior of the system. Ideally both the model parameters and the policy would be designed to maximize the cumulative reward. However, while there are many techniques available for learning the optimal policy, no good ways of learning the optimal model parameters that scale to real-world dialogue systems have been found yet. The presented algorithm, called the Natural Actor and Belief Critic (NABC), is a policy gradient method that offers a solution to this problem. Based on observed rewards, the algorithm estimates the natural gradient of the expected cumulative reward. The resulting gradient is then used to adapt both the prior distribution of the dialogue model parameters and the policy parameters. In addition, the article presents a variant of the NABC algorithm, called the Natural Belief Critic (NBC), which assumes that the policy is fixed and only the model parameters need to be estimated. The algorithms are evaluated on a spoken dialogue system in the tourist information domain. The experiments show that model parameters estimated to maximize the expected cumulative reward result in significantly improved performance compared to the baseline hand-crafted model parameters. The algorithms are also compared to optimization techniques using plain gradients and state-of-the-art random search algorithms. In all cases, the algorithms based on the natural gradient work significantly better. © 2011 ACM.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: POMDP Reinforcement learning Spoken dialogue systems
Subjects: UNSPECIFIED
Divisions: Div F > Machine Intelligence
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 12:03
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2014 02:27
DOI: 10.1145/1966407.1966411