The use of connectionist approaches in conversational agents has been progressing rapidly due to the availability of large corpora. However current generative dialogue models often lack coherence and are content poor. This work proposes an architecture to incorporate unstructured knowledge sources to enhance the next utterance prediction in chit-chat type of generative dialogue models. We focus on Sequence-to-Sequence (Seq2Seq) conversational agents trained with the Reddit News dataset, and consider incorporating external knowledge from Wikipedia summaries as well as from the NELL knowledge base. Our experiments show faster training time and improved perplexity when leveraging external knowledge.

* Accepted in EMNLP 2018
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While both cost-sensitive learning and online learning have been studied extensively, the effort in simultaneously dealing with these two issues is limited. Aiming at this challenge task, a novel learning framework is proposed in this paper. The key idea is based on the fusion of online ensemble algorithms and the state of the art batch mode cost-sensitive bagging/boosting algorithms. Within this framework, two separately developed research areas are bridged together, and a batch of theoretically sound online cost-sensitive bagging and online cost-sensitive boosting algorithms are first proposed. Unlike other online cost-sensitive learning algorithms lacking theoretical analysis of asymptotic properties, the convergence of the proposed algorithms is guaranteed under certain conditions, and the experimental evidence with benchmark data sets also validates the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed methods.

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The problem of detecting and recognizing text in natural scenes has proved to be more challenging than its counterpart in documents, with most of the previous work focusing on a single part of the problem. In this work, we propose new solutions to the character and word recognition problems and then show how to combine these solutions in an end-to-end text-recognition system. We do so by leveraging the recently introduced Maxout networks along with hybrid HMM models that have proven useful for voice recognition. Using these elements, we build a tunable and highly accurate recognition system that beats state-of-the-art results on all the sub-problems for both the ICDAR 2003 and SVT benchmark datasets.

* 9 pages, 7 figures
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This is an index to the papers that appear in the Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML-12). The conference was held in Edinburgh, Scotland, June 27th - July 3rd, 2012.

* Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML-12). Editors: John Langford and Joelle Pineau. Publisher: Omnipress, 2012
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Model-based Bayesian reinforcement learning has generated significant interest in the AI community as it provides an elegant solution to the optimal exploration-exploitation tradeoff in classical reinforcement learning. Unfortunately, the applicability of this type of approach has been limited to small domains due to the high complexity of reasoning about the joint posterior over model parameters. In this paper, we consider the use of factored representations combined with online planning techniques, to improve scalability of these methods. The main contribution of this paper is a Bayesian framework for learning the structure and parameters of a dynamical system, while also simultaneously planning a (near-)optimal sequence of actions.

* Appears in Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI2008)
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Markovian processes have long been used to model stochastic environments. Reinforcement learning has emerged as a framework to solve sequential planning and decision-making problems in such environments. In recent years, attempts were made to apply methods from reinforcement learning to construct decision support systems for action selection in Markovian environments. Although conventional methods in reinforcement learning have proved to be useful in problems concerning sequential decision-making, they cannot be applied in their current form to decision support systems, such as those in medical domains, as they suggest policies that are often highly prescriptive and leave little room for the users input. Without the ability to provide flexible guidelines, it is unlikely that these methods can gain ground with users of such systems. This paper introduces the new concept of non-deterministic policies to allow more flexibility in the users decision-making process, while constraining decisions to remain near optimal solutions. We provide two algorithms to compute non-deterministic policies in discrete domains. We study the output and running time of these method on a set of synthetic and real-world problems. In an experiment with human subjects, we show that humans assisted by hints based on non-deterministic policies outperform both human-only and computer-only agents in a web navigation task.

* Journal Of Artificial Intelligence Research, Volume 40, pages 1-24, 2011
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While current benchmark reinforcement learning (RL) tasks have been useful to drive progress in the field, they are in many ways poor substitutes for learning with real-world data. By testing increasingly complex RL algorithms on low-complexity simulation environments, we often end up with brittle RL policies that generalize poorly beyond the very specific domain. To combat this, we propose three new families of benchmark RL domains that contain some of the complexity of the natural world, while still supporting fast and extensive data acquisition. The proposed domains also permit a characterization of generalization through fair train/test separation, and easy comparison and replication of results. Through this work, we challenge the RL research community to develop more robust algorithms that meet high standards of evaluation.

* 12 figures
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Achieving machine intelligence requires a smooth integration of perception and reasoning, yet models developed to date tend to specialize in one or the other; sophisticated manipulation of symbols acquired from rich perceptual spaces has so far proved elusive. Consider a visual arithmetic task, where the goal is to carry out simple arithmetical algorithms on digits presented under natural conditions (e.g. hand-written, placed randomly). We propose a two-tiered architecture for tackling this problem. The lower tier consists of a heterogeneous collection of information processing modules, which can include pre-trained deep neural networks for locating and extracting characters from the image, as well as modules performing symbolic transformations on the representations extracted by perception. The higher tier consists of a controller, trained using reinforcement learning, which coordinates the modules in order to solve the high-level task. For instance, the controller may learn in what contexts to execute the perceptual networks and what symbolic transformations to apply to their outputs. The resulting model is able to solve a variety of tasks in the visual arithmetic domain, and has several advantages over standard, architecturally homogeneous feedforward networks including improved sample efficiency.

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The risks and perils of overfitting in machine learning are well known. However most of the treatment of this, including diagnostic tools and remedies, was developed for the supervised learning case. In this work, we aim to offer new perspectives on the characterization and prevention of overfitting in deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) methods, with a particular focus on continuous domains. We examine several aspects, such as how to define and diagnose overfitting in MDPs, and how to reduce risks by injecting sufficient training diversity. This work complements recent findings on the brittleness of deep RL methods and offers practical observations for RL researchers and practitioners.

* 20 pages, 16 figures
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Current reinforcement learning (RL) methods can successfully learn single tasks but often generalize poorly to modest perturbations in task domain or training procedure. In this work, we present a decoupled learning strategy for RL that creates a shared representation space where knowledge can be robustly transferred. We separate learning the task representation, the forward dynamics, the inverse dynamics and the reward function of the domain, and show that this decoupling improves performance within the task, transfers well to changes in dynamics and reward, and can be effectively used for online planning. Empirical results show good performance in both continuous and discrete RL domains.

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Tensor regression networks achieve high rate of compression of model parameters in multilayer perceptrons (MLP) while having slight impact on performances. Tensor regression layer imposes low-rank constraints on the tensor regression layer which replaces the flattening operation of traditional MLP. We investigate tensor regression networks using various low-rank tensor approximations, aiming to leverage the multi-modal structure of high dimensional data by enforcing efficient low-rank constraints. We provide a theoretical analysis giving insights on the choice of the rank parameters. We evaluated performance of proposed model with state-of-the-art deep convolutional models. For CIFAR-10 dataset, we achieved the compression rate of 0.018 with the sacrifice of accuracy less than 1%.

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We present and evaluate the capacity of a deep neural network to learn robust features from EEG to automatically detect seizures. This is a challenging problem because seizure manifestations on EEG are extremely variable both inter- and intra-patient. By simultaneously capturing spectral, temporal and spatial information our recurrent convolutional neural network learns a general spatially invariant representation of a seizure. The proposed approach exceeds significantly previous results obtained on cross-patient classifiers both in terms of sensitivity and false positive rate. Furthermore, our model proves to be robust to missing channel and variable electrode montage.

* Presented at 2016 Machine Learning and Healthcare Conference (MLHC 2016), Los Angeles, CA
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Consider a Machine Learning Service Provider (MLSP) designed to rapidly create highly accurate learners for a never-ending stream of new tasks. The challenge is to produce task-specific learners that can be trained from few labeled samples, even if tasks are not uniquely identified, and the number of tasks and input dimensionality are large. In this paper, we argue that the MLSP should exploit knowledge from previous tasks to build a good representation of the environment it is in, and more precisely, that useful representations for such a service are ones that minimize generalization error for a new hypothesis trained on a new task. We formalize this intuition with a novel method that minimizes an empirical proxy of the intra-task small-sample generalization error. We present several empirical results showing state-of-the art performance on single-task transfer, multitask learning, and the full lifelong learning problem.

* 8 pages
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This paper presents a scalable control algorithm that enables a deployed mobile robot system to make high-level decisions under full consideration of its probabilistic belief. Our approach is based on insights from the rich literature of hierarchical controllers and hierarchical MDPs. The resulting controller has been successfully deployed in a nursing facility near Pittsburgh, PA. To the best of our knowledge, this work is a unique instance of applying POMDPs to high-level robotic control problems.

* Appears in Proceedings of the Nineteenth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI2003)
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The personalization of treatment via bio-markers and other risk categories has drawn increasing interest among clinical scientists. Personalized treatment strategies can be learned using data from clinical trials, but such trials are very costly to run. This paper explores the use of active learning techniques to design more efficient trials, addressing issues such as whom to recruit, at what point in the trial, and which treatment to assign, throughout the duration of the trial. We propose a minimax bandit model with two different optimization criteria, and discuss the computational challenges and issues pertaining to this approach. We evaluate our active learning policies using both simulated data, and data modeled after a clinical trial for treating depressed individuals, and contrast our methods with other plausible active learning policies.

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We consider the problem of streaming kernel regression, when the observations arrive sequentially and the goal is to recover the underlying mean function, assumed to belong to an RKHS. The variance of the noise is not assumed to be known. In this context, we tackle the problem of tuning the regularization parameter adaptively at each time step, while maintaining tight confidence bounds estimates on the value of the mean function at each point. To this end, we first generalize existing results for finite-dimensional linear regression with fixed regularization and known variance to the kernel setup with a regularization parameter allowed to be a measurable function of past observations. Then, using appropriate self-normalized inequalities we build upper and lower bound estimates for the variance, leading to Bersntein-like concentration bounds. The later is used in order to define the adaptive regularization. The bounds resulting from our technique are valid uniformly over all observation points and all time steps, and are compared against the literature with numerical experiments. Finally, the potential of these tools is illustrated by an application to kernelized bandits, where we revisit the Kernel UCB and Kernel Thompson Sampling procedures, and show the benefits of the novel adaptive kernel tuning strategy.

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We propose a software architecture designed to ease the implementation of dialogue systems. The Modular Architecture for Conversational Agents (MACA) uses a plug-n-play style that allows quick prototyping, thereby facilitating the development of new techniques and the reproduction of previous work. The architecture separates the domain of the conversation from the agent's dialogue strategy, and as such can be easily extended to multiple domains. MACA provides tools to host dialogue agents on Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) for data collection and allows processing of other sources of training data. The current version of the framework already incorporates several domains and existing dialogue strategies from the recent literature.

* The architecture needs to be tested further. Sorry for the inconvenience. We should be putting up the paper up soon
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Bayesian priors offer a compact yet general means of incorporating domain knowledge into many learning tasks. The correctness of the Bayesian analysis and inference, however, largely depends on accuracy and correctness of these priors. PAC-Bayesian methods overcome this problem by providing bounds that hold regardless of the correctness of the prior distribution. This paper introduces the first PAC-Bayesian bound for the batch reinforcement learning problem with function approximation. We show how this bound can be used to perform model-selection in a transfer learning scenario. Our empirical results confirm that PAC-Bayesian policy evaluation is able to leverage prior distributions when they are informative and, unlike standard Bayesian RL approaches, ignore them when they are misleading.

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Several applications of Reinforcement Learning suffer from instability due to high variance. This is especially prevalent in high dimensional domains. Regularization is a commonly used technique in machine learning to reduce variance, at the cost of introducing some bias. Most existing regularization techniques focus on spatial (perceptual) regularization. Yet in reinforcement learning, due to the nature of the Bellman equation, there is an opportunity to also exploit temporal regularization based on smoothness in value estimates over trajectories. This paper explores a class of methods for temporal regularization. We formally characterize the bias induced by this technique using Markov chain concepts. We illustrate the various characteristics of temporal regularization via a sequence of simple discrete and continuous MDPs, and show that the technique provides improvement even in high-dimensional Atari games.

* Published as a conference paper at NIPS 2018
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Bayesian methods for machine learning have been widely investigated, yielding principled methods for incorporating prior information into inference algorithms. In this survey, we provide an in-depth review of the role of Bayesian methods for the reinforcement learning (RL) paradigm. The major incentives for incorporating Bayesian reasoning in RL are: 1) it provides an elegant approach to action-selection (exploration/exploitation) as a function of the uncertainty in learning; and 2) it provides a machinery to incorporate prior knowledge into the algorithms. We first discuss models and methods for Bayesian inference in the simple single-step Bandit model. We then review the extensive recent literature on Bayesian methods for model-based RL, where prior information can be expressed on the parameters of the Markov model. We also present Bayesian methods for model-free RL, where priors are expressed over the value function or policy class. The objective of the paper is to provide a comprehensive survey on Bayesian RL algorithms and their theoretical and empirical properties.

* Foundations and Trends in Machine Learning, Vol. 8: No. 5-6, pp 359-492, 2015
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