Context-based Word Acquisition for Situated Dialogue in a Virtual World

S. Qu and J. Y. Chai

To tackle the vocabulary problem in conversational systems, previous work has applied unsupervised learning approaches on co-occurring speech and eye gaze during interaction to automatically acquire new words. Although these approaches have shown promise, several issues related to human language behavior and human-machine conversation have not been addressed. First, psycholinguistic studies have shown certain temporal regularities between human eye movement and language production. While these regularities can potentially guide the acquisition process, they have not been incorporated in the previous unsupervised approaches. Second, conversational systems generally have an existing knowledge base about the domain and vocabulary. While the existing knowledge can potentially help bootstrap and constrain the acquired new words, it has not been incorporated in the previous models. Third, eye gaze could serve different functions in human-machine conversation. Some gaze streams may not be closely coupled with speech stream, and thus are potentially detrimental to word acquisition. Automated recognition of closely-coupled speech-gaze streams based on conversation context is important. To address these issues, we developed new approaches that incorporate user language behavior, domain knowledge, and conversation context in word acquisition. We evaluated these approaches in the context of situated dialogue in a virtual world. Our experimental results have shown that incorporating the above three types of contextual information significantly improves word acquisition performance.

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