January 31, 2019
by Todd Erickson*
Phase Change research scientist Rahul Pandita’s co-written paper, “A Conceptual Framework for Engineering Chatbots,” was recently published in the November-December 2018 issue of IEEE Internet Computing^.
The industry magazine is published bi-monthly by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society for evaluating and reviewing Internet-based computer applications and enabling technologies. It focuses on technologies and applications that enable practitioners to utilize Internet-based applications and tools, instead of having to build their own.
The use of chatbots as virtual assistants is becoming more widespread as companies strive to increase community engagement online and on social-media platforms.
The problem is that most commercially available bots are engineered with If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) frameworks from the 1980s. These decades-old frameworks often create inflexible chatbots that are difficult to maintain.
The bots can be monolithic and may mix dialog-managing rules with business-execution logic and response-generation rules. And when these chatbots must interact with third-party services to orchestrate workflows, the orchestration logic becomes entwined with the IFTTT rules.
Additionally, IFTTT tends to be order sensitive. As chatbots’ capabilities increase, their implementation rules grow more complex, and even simple modifications can require substantial effort.
The paper, “A Conceptual Framework for Engineering Chatbots,“ outlines a high-level conceptual framework founded upon agent-oriented abstractions – goals, plans, and commitments.
It theorizes that well-studied abstractions of goals and commitments from the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and multiagent systems allow for more flexible chatbots. Goals capture an agent’s intentions, and commitments capture meaningful business relationships between agents.
The paper describes how employing goals and commitments can enable a model chatbot that can be verified at design time or runtime, offers flexible enactments, and provides a basis for judging correctness.
In addition to Pandita, the paper is written by:
- Anup K. Kalia, a Research Staff Member with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
- Munindar P. Singh, a Professor in Computer Science and the Co-Director of the Science of Security Lablet at North Carolina State University
- Pankaj R. Telang, a Senior Data Scientist with the Cyber Analytics R&D Department at the SAS Institute
- Maja Vukovic, a Research Manager and a Research Staff Member with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
It is available free online for IEEE members, and can be purchased through the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.
*Todd Erickson is a tech writer with Phase Change Software. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
^The figure represented in the featured image and the IEEE Internet Computing magazine cover are copyrighted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc..