That's it!
Understanding Reference in Spoken Dialog

Donna Byron
Department of Computer Science
Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Rochester


Traditional hands-on computer interfaces are inappropriate for many situations, for example when the user's hands are engaged operating a vehicle, when the interaction happens over the telephone or in zero-gravity, or due to a handicap that limits the user's manual dexterity. Natural language is an attractive interface modality in these settings, and voice interfaces are becoming increasingly essential as we move into a future of pervasive technology and smart, sensored environments. However, classic language understanding techniques developed for written language sometimes do poorly on spoken language.

This talk explores new machinery implemented in the TRIPS spoken dialog system to handle one such category, called referring expressions (e.g. "the flight to Boston" or "that"). Understanding these expressions is vital, but traditional techniques do not provide adequate support for spoken interaction. We will discuss why these expressions are important in language understanding, how spoken language differs from written, and recent results on one particularly hard category of pronouns that occur infrequently in written language but commonly in user interactions with our system.

Details on the TRIPS system at U of R.

Colloquia Series page.