Task Oriented Instructional Dialogue
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ESSLLI 2001 Course

The information state approach to dialogue management: theory and

Lecturers: Robin Cooper and David Traum
(with assistance from other TRINDI consortium members: Johan Bos, Staffan Larsson, David Milward)
Type: advanced course
Section: Language and Computation
Description: The EU project TRINDI (Task Oriented Instructional Dialogue) has developed an approach to formalising computational theories of dialogue processing using information state update. The approach leads to straightforward implementation of dialogue management models based on these theories making it possible to experiment with different kinds of information state and update rules and enabling the rapid prototyping of systems. To this end the project has developed a toolkit called TRINDIKIT and a number of implementations to illustrate both the kit and theories of dialogue processing. The project has resulted in a book manuscript which will be used as the textbook in the course. We will give an overview of the general approach as well as presentations of the information state theories we have investigated and systems we have implemented. If feasible, we would like to give some hands-on experience in using the TRINDIKIT.
The following lectures will be given (references are to the TRINDI book draft):

  1. 20th Aug, 11-12.30

    The information state approach to dialogue management (David Traum)
    Reading: Chaps. 1, 2.1-2.2

    Introduction to the TRINDIKIT (Staffan Larsson)
    Reading: Chap. 2.3-2.5, App. A; slides

  2. 21st Aug, 11-12.30

    GoDiS: a dialogue system based on questions under discussion. (Staffan Larsson)
    Reading: Chap. 3; slides

  3. 22nd Aug, 11-12.30

    The Poesio-Traum theory of dialogue and the EDIS implementation. (David Traum)
    Reading: Chap. 4

  4. 22nd Aug, 11-12.30

    MIDAS: a dialogue system based on DRT which exploits first-order theorem proving (Johan Bos)
    Reading: Chap. 5

    Robust semantic processing in dialogue systems (David Milward)
    Reading: Chap. 8

  5. 24th Aug, 11-12.30

    Towards flexible and adaptable dialogue systems: work on the SIRIDUS and D'HOMME projects (Staffan Larsson, David Milward)

    Discussion (slides)

Literature: The TRINDI book

The toolkit and some of the systems we are discussing are downloadable from TrindiKit web page where you will also find the manual for the kit.

Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of computational linguistics, computation, and computational semantics (including AVMs, logical inference, DRT and pragmatics). Some previous knowledge of dialogue management would be helpful.

Course requirements: If you wish to obtain credit for the course we suggest that you carry out a small project involving one to two weeks of work during the three months following the course. Here are some suggestions for the kind of project that could be done. If you wish to do this please mail both Robin Cooper (cooper@ling.gu.se) and David Traum (traum@ict.usc.edu) and discuss your plans with us. On successful completion of the project we will be able to provide you with a document saying that you have taken the course and describe the nature of your project. This can possibly be used to help you obtain credit for the course at your home university but it is up to you to arrange this.

Proposed TRINDI course projects:

  1. Write a short paper (5-10 pages) discussing how part of your favourite theory of dialogue might (or might not) be formulated using TrindiKit formalisms.
  2. Take one of the existing systems provided in the TrindiKit download and add some new dialogue behaviour to it.
  3. Take one of the existing systems provided in the TrindiKit download and (begin to) port it to a new domain or language. (The result should be a working system which we can evaluate, even if it covers very little.)
  4. Add an existing module or resource that you have worked with before but which is not part of the TrindiKit. Examples are speech recognition and synthesis modules, NL interpretation and generation modules, reasoning module, planning module, parser, database resource interfaces (e.g. SQL, XML), device interfaces etc. It may be something you have written yourself or something that is available off the shelf.

Implementation projects that can potentially be included in future releases of the TrindiKit are particularly welcome.