Thesis of Sara Bouguelia
Start date: 01/10/2019
End date: 01/10/2022
Advisor: Hamamache Kheddouci
Coadvisor: Boualem Benatallah
Dialogue Systems (or simply chatbots) are in very high demand these days. They enable the understanding of user needs (or user intents), expressed in natural language, and on fulfilling such intents by invoking the appropriate back-end APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Chatbots are famed for their easy-to-use interface and gentle learning curve (it only requires one of humans' most innate ability, the use of natural language). The continuous improvement in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and the countless number of devices allow performing real-world tasks (e.g., making a reservation) by using natural language-based interactions between users and a large number software enabled services.
Nonetheless, chatbot development is still in its preliminary stage, and there are several theoretical and technical challenges that need to be addressed. One of the challenges stems from the wide range of utterance variations in open-end human-chatbot interactions. Additionally, there is a vast space of software services that may be unknown at development time. Natural human conversations can be rich, potentially ambiguous, and express complex and context-dependent intents. Traditional business process and service composition modeling and orchestration techniques are limited to support such conversations because they usually assume a priori expectation of what information and applications will be accessed and how users will explore these sources and services. Limiting conversations to a process model means that we can only support a small fraction of possible conversations. While existing advances in NLP and Machine Learning (ML) techniques automate various tasks such as intent recognition, the synthesis of API calls to support a broad range of potentially complex user intents is still largely a manual, ad-hoc and costly process.
This thesis project aims at advancing the fundamental understanding of cognitive services engineering. In this thesis we contribute novel abstractions and techniques focusing on the synthesis of API calls to support broad range of potentially complex user intents. We propose reusable and extensible techniques to recognize and realize complex intents during humans-chatbots-services interactions. These abstractions and techniques seek to unlock the seamless and scalable integration of natural language-based conversations with software-enabled services.