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Lending Interaction Wings to Recommender Systems with Conversational Agents

Jiarui Jin · Xianyu Chen · Fanghua Ye · Mengyue Yang · Yue Feng · Weinan Zhang · Yong Yu · Jun Wang

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #415
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Thu 14 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


An intelligent conversational agent (a.k.a., chat-bot) could embrace conversational technologies to obtain user preferences online, to overcome inherent limitations of recommender systems trained over the offline historical user behaviors. In this paper, we propose CORE, a new offline-training and online-checking framework to plug a COnversational agent into REcommender systems. Unlike most prior conversational recommendation approaches that systemically combine conversational and recommender parts through a reinforcement learning framework, CORE bridges the conversational agent and recommender system through a unified uncertainty minimization framework, which can be easily applied to any existing recommendation approach. Concretely, CORE treats a recommender system as an offline estimator to produce an estimated relevance score for each item, while CORE regards a conversational agent as an online checker that checks these estimated scores in each online session. We define uncertainty as the sum of unchecked relevance scores. In this regard, the conversational agent acts to minimize uncertainty via querying either attributes or items. Towards uncertainty minimization, we derive the certainty gain of querying each attribute and item, and develop a novel online decision tree algorithm to decide what to query at each turn. Our theoretical analysis reveals the bound of the expected number of turns of CORE in a cold-start setting. Experimental results demonstrate that CORE can be seamlessly employed on a variety of recommendation approaches, and can consistently bring significant improvements in both hot-start and cold-start settings.

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