Do you like training? Neither does your chatbot

If you’re building a chatbot, there’s a high chance you’ve sometimes thought “Why can’t people talk in a simpler, ordered way?”. Well, as linguistics experts, here at Bitext we have good and bad news.

Bad news first? Ok: people are always going to talk in complex, almost unpredictable ways because that’s the spirit of the natural languages. Simplifying the issue, they obey to two laws: economy and expressivity.

By the law of economy people tend to take for granted the person they are talking to (their interlocutor) knows a series of data – the context they share, cultural references, etc. – so they don’t have to mention them explicitly. As an example:

  • Open the door (the door of the room both people are in)
  • I’ll be there on Monday (the interlocutor will translate “Monday” to the date corresponding to the next Monday from the date they are in)
  • Let’s eat together someday (it’s obvious the speaker means “eat food,” so saying it would be redundant)

By the law of expressivity, we humans also like to add decorative, unnecessary (for a bot) elements. So we end up saying more things than the strictly necessary for the message we are delivering. For example:

  • Can you please open the kitchen door? (polite tone)
  • Every day, every hour, every second, give a 100% (use of anaphora, a literary device to convey repetition)
  • The concert was out of this world! (the speaker chooses a synonym of “great” much longer to exaggerate his judgment.
The interlocutor, because of their metalinguistic knowledge, always bears in mind the obedience to these laws, but bots don’t.

Fortunately, there are good news as well: when you write the SEO field for your article you’re thinking of a bot audience rather than a human audience, right? That’s simply because this area is not going to be visible, it’s only for bots. So why not do the same with conversational bots?

Here at Bitext, we’ve developed a middleware system that transforms a given sentence (expressed in a natural, human language) into a sentence easily understandable for a bot. It would include the necessary information for it to work, and nothing else. This sentence would use the exact vocabulary and word order the bot is expecting – therefore ensuring the bot training gets significantly shortened. Of course, this intermediate sentence would be always hidden to the final user.

  • Open the door (if speakers are in the kitchen) > open kitchen door
  • Can you please open the kitchen door? > open kitchen door

Imagine the millions of sentences that can be reduced to the same bot-style command and you’ll understand the power of this outstanding tool.



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