Sunday, May 21, 2017

Conversational AI for Dungeons and Dragons

we start the 2017 eClub Summer Camp. eClub has moved to a new CIIRC building. We are competing in the Alexa Prize competition. Join eClub and learn the latest machine learning, NLP algorithms.

A few years ago we have started with a question answering system YodaQA. It has been inspired by the IBM Watson beating the best player in Jeopardy. Today we continue our journey in even more challenging projects. We are creating dialogs for the latest voice-controlled appliances. We have entered the Alexa Prize competition and it helped us to develop Alquist the social bots. We have a free access to an immense power of AWS, we are in constant touch with the Amazon research staff. Every member of the Alquist team became an NLP expert. The Alquist system is day by day getting better. Currently, Alquist can conduct a sensible short dialog. The user can choose from several topics: sports, politics, celebrities, jokes, etc.

Thousands of users are using the chat and we receive valuable logs making us very busy. It takes a lot of time to get through details, to discover why the user stopped the conversation but we are learning a lot. What is the social dialog? What are the catchy questions? How to respond quickly and interestingly? There are still a lot of questions, but we are ambitious, we want to extend the Alquist knowledge to handle a long and interesting dialog. If you like tested say Alexa let's chat.

The Natural Language Understanding (NLP) underlines Alquist. NLP is also the essential part of Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assitant and other latest bots. The Conversational AI is building on machine learning, optimization etc., it takes advantage of all the latest development in machine learning, starting with the classical algorithms up to the latest deep neural network, sequence to sequence and memory networks etc. This summer we want to considerably improve the Alquist capabilities. To achieve our goals we need to enlarge the Alquist team and focus on the Conversational AI. If you are a BSc, MSc or Ph.D. student join us. We have various programs including Ph.D. candidates.

In addition to AI, we also need creative individuals knowing how to handle a dialog, being innovative. We all know that carrying an interesting dialog is an art. To teach Alquist interesting dialogs is even more complicated. Creative young people with many different skills in the human to the human conversation are welcome to join us.

A dialog is also about information and experience exchange. Imagine for example a bot helping you playing an adventure game. The RPG have many rules and it is very boring to search an information in a handbook. One of the very popular RPG games is the Dungeons and Dragons. We want to design an interactive Alexa D&D handbook and improve level and XP progression. If you are interested in D&D join us helping us to design a voice-controlled interactive manual.

The NLP space is huge and we have a large number of interesting topics to work on. If you are interested in AI, machine learning, neural nets etc. join us. We have great resources, a lot of experience and funds to award you scholarships.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Alquist mission continues

The Alquist team has just returned from the Alexa Prize Summit. We have met with Alexa researchers, developers business developers, and all competing university teams. We enjoyed the three days of great fun discussing the conversational AI.

The summit opened with a visit to the Amazon Fulfillment Center. We were stunned observing the Amazon robots smoothly transporting racks with goods to pickers. The center is an excellent example of automation, optimization, and efficiency.

We have started the summit with a review of our Alquist social bot. Amazon experts commented on our accomplishment. No problems, we have passed.

The key part of the summit were the Alexa team presentations. The development of a social bot is a complex task requiring knowledge from many different disciplines. Therefore the presentations were covering many topics ranging from speech technology, NLP, Deep Learning to how to carry an engaging dialog. The Alquist team members are CVUT students with in-depth knowledge in AI. Therefore the most revealing for us were the non-technical presentations. I liked the Celeste Headlee presentation. She is a reporter on the public radio and a professional opera singer. She taught us how to Make Great Conversations. The key message:  Researchers discovered that talking about yourself activates the same pleasure centers in your brain as sex and cocaine. We learn how the Alquist needs to behave. We also got a lesson about Best Practices for Promoting Our team. The advice is simple: promote better the Alquist team and the Conversational AI.

The summit was not only about technology, on Wednesday evening we joined the screening of just released Amazon Studios Movie “The Lost City of Z” produced by Brat Pitt.

We also looked around the Seattle City on Friday afternoon. We were lucky it was one of the few days with blue sky. I gave up queuing for the lift to the Space Needle Observation Deck and instead I have climbed one of the Seattle hills. The sky was clear and the more than 4000 meters high Mount Rainier with its snow cap seemed like just behind the city.

The Alquist team was excited by the Alexa Price Summit. We had a unique opportunity to meet with the Amazon Alexa team and the competing university teams. We had the chance to experience the Amazon enthusiasm and the entrepreneurial spirit. We got back charged with fresh energy to push the conversational qualities of Alquist even further.

If you are interested in building interesting conversational applications, join eClub and the Alquist team and help us to make Alquist even better. There are many AI tasks we need to improve, some of them we have not touched yet. It does not matter if you do not have any experience, we will teach you. Thanks to Amazon we can give you a scholarship. Join us and enjoy the feeling of success!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Alexa socialbot testers wanted!

We are finishing the last details, of the Alquist social bot.  Today we are opening the first preview for testers.  If you are interested, leave your email. We will send you instructions. The total number of testers is limited. Hurry up!

If you do not own Echo or other Alexa appliance, install the or Reverb on your cell, and you are ready to start. Upon signing up, we will email you all required details. We are interested in your feedback.

The chatbot is not perfect but, it is the time to start learning how users interact and collect the feedback. We need real users who are not familiar with the system. Amazon is helping us with their internal testing system, and it is a unique opportunity. Help us!

What can you expect?  We have trained Alquist to carry a simple dialog, it knows how to answer factoid questions using the Wikidata DB, and how to give help. Recently, we have made advances in creating a simple dialog within limited domains with frequently changing data.

All is still under development with a lot of quirks and twists, but your feedback will help us to improve. Thanks!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

New projects - join us

eClub will again organize the Summer Camp (ESC). The ESC 2016 was incredibly successful. Five eClubbers worked on a question answering system YodaQA. At the end of summer, they have entered the Amazon Alexa Prize competition and got in between top twelve selected for development of a social bot. They received $100k scholarship for a social bot development. Currently, they are busy working on the first version of Alquist.

We would like to continue in the direction of developing dialog applications in ESC 2017. The social bot task is very challenging, and many required technologies are still in development. While developing YodaQA, we have looked at the well known classical NLP algorithms as well as to new mainly neural networks based ones, such as LSTM, GRU, etc. to process text in many different ways.

It is beginning of March, but we are already prepared to incubate new, eager students interested joining us on this journey toward smarter systems. We have strong support not only from Amazon but also from the local company Seznam. Seznam is one of the few competing successfully with Google on the domestic market. They are 100% Machine Learning company with a lot of problems of mutual interest.

Here is a sneak preview of the projects for this year. Join us, and work with us tomorrow, if you are interested. We are offering scholarship equivalent to what you would earn working for a company. We are moving to the new CVUT building, it is gorgeous, as soon as it opens, it is just a matter of weeks. Join us! You can start any time.

Automatic email reply generation
In this project, we want to research methods for automatic generation of short responses to emails or social networks messages. Specifically, on a cell phone, it can be a great advantage to select from a selection of semantically diverse replies. We want first cover few words long messages. The initial steps will include a review of Recurrent Neural Networks architectures and a meaningful training set construction.

Amazon Echo conversational application
We have a set of tasks we would like to cover as a spoken dialog. We want to design interactive conversational bots for Amazon Echo. We want the application to be engaging, entertaining and informative, bringing the user latest news from specific areas, such as sports, celebrities, movies, etc. This project is OK for students who are only entering the field with no or small experience.
Knowledge extraction
There is vast of information on the Internet. A lot of the information is in the form of a text; the information is unstructured. In this project, we want to review the methods for retrieving and extracting the information, learning the dependencies of statements in the texts. We want to create ontologies from a selected, limited content and store the knowledge for further use. These are very challenging problems but do not hesitate to join. We have students currently working on these topics. We know what the first steps are.

Text summarization
Journalists write the Internet news in a particular language, frequently using idioms, slang or infrequent expressions. In this project, we want to extract what is important and create a summary in a clear language. Initially, we want to summarize long sentences. Next, select a suitable method, implement and test it on a chosen domain.

Events Extraction from Text
This project is only an extension of the previous one. We want to design and implement a system for extracting events from the Internet. The primary goal is selecting news messages based on identified topics (or events). Extraction of economic events like mergers & acquisitions, stock splits, dividend announcements, etc., play an essential role in decision making, in risk analysis applications and monitoring systems.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

eClub Prague received the Amazon Alexa Prize!

eClub Prague students got one of their best opportunities by being selected as one of 12 teams from world leading universities to compete in the inaugural Amazon Alexa Prize with their very own Alquist chatbot. The eClub team has been selected by Amazon and it has been given the challenge to build a social bot that can converse on popular topics for 20 minutes. By being selected among such names as Princeton University, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and as only one of three universities in Europe this is a unique and exciting opportunity to put us on the map as one of the thought leaders on social bots. eClub Prague was awarded a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services, and support from Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) team. All this to help us make the final three, who will be announced in August 2017. Also as part of the judging process, Alexa customers will have the opportunity to try out the Alquist chatbot themselves and their feedback will have an instrumental impact on the team making the final. The winners will be announced in November 2017 with a $1,5 million up for grabs. I am the academic advisor for a team consisting of Long Hoang Nguyen, Honza Pichl, Martin Matulík, Jakub Konrád and Petr Marek. the team is very excited about the opportunity that Amazon has given us and we hope to make the final three. Although this is a great achievement for the Prague-based team the work only starts. From now until April they will be working on developing conversational AIs such as knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning and dialog planning.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Do not look for part time job work for the university

eClub is extending the Summer Camp for the whole academic year. This is an early information.

The eClub Summer Camp is in its third month. This year we have more than twenty members. It is a little less than last year but the projects are much more focused. The mentors are more effective, they have learned how to lead. Overall we have accomplished much more. The success and the high quality of projects has ignited an idea to extend the eClub throughout the whole academic year.

We will offer students scholarships starting from the October 1st for the winter and extend for the summer semester. We are preparing joined labs with our partners Seznam, Jablotron, and many others. We are in the process of signing the contracts. Our joined labs are located in the new CVUT building in the Dejvice campus, everybody will get a seat and table. You will save the commute time. eClub and the partners too, are looking for innovative ideas and interesting projects. We also want to make the projects semestral works or final thesis to let you earn credits. Working with leading companies is a great entry to CVs. eClub will provide scholarships and we also will offer a complete infrastructure including large computer clusters. Each student will have a mentor helping to get over the usual problems no to get stucked.

We will offer similar projects as during the Summer Camp. Mainly from the field of artificial Intelligence, IoT Industry 4.0 and BigData. We do not wnat to limit our activities to this fields only, come and ask. We are inviting students from all Czech Universities. We also will support startups. Work for the leading companies in an university joined lab.

Work on great projects. Follow our FB, eClub web pages and blog, stay tuned for further information.