Facebook is trying to make its chatbots better at chitchat

Facebook just ditched its personal assistant M.

Press Association
Last updated:29 January 2018 - 05.00pm

Despite their name, chat bots aren’t very good at chit-chatting, and Facebook is trying to rectify that.

Facebook’s AI Research arm Fair released a paper last week outlining its attempts to make the bots better conversationalists.

[Read more: How to set up Facebook privacy settings]

Problems with the current bots include inconsistency, forgetting what people have already said to them, and the fact that they’re “not very captivating”, according to Facebook.

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So in an attempt to make the bots less boring, Facebook has been training them to use answers to initial questions to guess more about who they’re talking to.

Using deep learning, Facebook got its bots to look for patterns in people’s interests to make better conversation.

In its paper, Fair shows the limitations of chat bots that pull their small talk from film dialogue, giving bizarre interactions that rely on odd pre-programmed phrases if the bot doesn’t know what else to say.

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Instead, Facebook has created its own dataset called Persona-Chat, which contains more than 160,000 lines of dialogue between people who created and stuck to certain personalities when chatting to each other.

Each person had to come up with five key details about their persona, for example being into art or having been married three times, and then made to chat with someone else with those in mind.

Chatbots were trained on the resulting data and then tested by chatting to real people, and those interactions were rated. They were far better than the bots running on film subtitles.

Although Facebook recently announced that it was ditching its personal assistant M, clearly chat bots are something the firm is still working on.

Here’s an example of dialogue between a human tester and a bot pulling text from film subtitles:

[Real Person:] Oh yeah? well I enjoy a nice steak. how about you?

[Bot:] Father always used to say that if we ever had the money you have… we’ d have steak and ice cream three times every day!

[Real Person:] I eat all the steak and chicken too, even bacon

[Bot:] Father always used to say that if we ever had the money you have… we’ d have steak and ice cream three times every day!

[Real Person:] Yeah you said that already

[Bot:] Dynamic structure can absorb shock.

[Real Person:] Yes it can. I know about that as a bodybuilder

[Bot:] Ladies and gentlemen… the strongest man in the world is blowing up a hot water bottle.

And here’s another conversation between a person and a bot using Facebook’s new Self-persona data set:

[Real person:] I just got done playing soccer. What have you been up to?

[Bot:] I do not have pets. I spend my free time writing. what about you?

[Real person:] Just graduated from college. Looking for work.

[Bot:] Yes I graduated, in writing and poetry

[Real person:] Have you had anything published?

[Bot:] I mainly write fiction novels.

[Real person:] Do you like to watch sports?

[Bot:] Do you like Kings Of Leon my favourite by them is Use Somebody

[Real person:] Are you married? I will be married soon.

[Bot:] Haha, no time. I have got a novel to finish.

[Real person:] What is your novel about?

[Bot:] It is a love story. I really enjoy writing. Do you write or read?

[Real person:] Like to read. Spend most time watching football.

[Bot:] Yes I do I am and author for a living

[Read more: How to set up Facebook privacy settings]