Interpreting Information Requests in Context

Charles L. Ortiz, Jr, Artificial Intelligence Center , SRI International

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 6, 2001

In this talk I will describe the use of theories of agent collaboration and human dialogue processing in providing a principled basis for the design of web interfaces to multimedia information stores. I will discuss a system called DIAL to illustrate the efficacy of this approach. DIAL builds a representation of context that is based on the collaborative plans of the system and its user and uses this contextual information to reduce the communication burden.

Context is represented by a structure of intentions that a user is pursuing. This structure is modified as tasks are completed or task descriptions are refined. DIAL interprets information requests relative to the prevailing context as it is represented by this structure. As a result, requests can be expressed more economically; contextual information is added by the system.

Furthermore, DIAL uses information about the intentional context to respond and act collaboratively, rather than in the master-slave style typical of most current human-computer interfaces. DIAL and the access method it supports provide a unique support tool for distance learning environments as well as a demonstration of a general way in which agent models can be used to improve human-computer communication.

This is joint work with Barbara Grosz of Harvard University.

Charlie Ortiz is a Senior Computer Scientist in the AI Center at SRI. His research interests include: Commonsense reasoning: action, causation, and counterfactuals; Collaborative planning and rational agent architectures; Planning under incomplete information; Applications of logic to commonsense reasoning; Logic programming; Collaborative user interfaces, large-scale information management, and distance learning. He received his PhD from the Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania and was a postdoctoral fellow, at Harvard University.

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