Policy Networks with Two-Stage Training for Dialogue Systems

In this paper, we propose to use deep policy networks which are trained with an advantage actor-critic method for statistically optimised dialogue systems. First, we show that, on summary state and action spaces, deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) outperforms Gaussian Processes methods. Summary state and action spaces lead to good performance but require pre-engineering effort, RL knowledge, and domain expertise. In order to remove the need to define such summary spaces, we show that deep RL can also be trained efficiently on the original state and action spaces. Dialogue systems based on partially observable Markov decision processes are known to require many dialogues to train, which makes them unappealing for practical deployment. We show that a deep RL method based on an actor-critic architecture can exploit a small amount of data very efficiently. Indeed, with only a few hundred dialogues collected with a handcrafted policy, the actor-critic deep learner is considerably bootstrapped from a combination of supervised and batch RL. In addition, convergence to an optimal policy is significantly sped up compared to other deep RL methods initialized on the data with batch RL. All experiments are performed on a restaurant domain derived from the Dialogue State Tracking Challenge 2 (DSTC2) dataset.

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