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A Generalized Web Component for Domain-Independent Smart Assistants

InstantExpert

Table of Contents

Introduction

This project introduces the Instant Expert; a lightweight web component that will allow the stable and efficient integration of a natural language question answering system to web-based information systems in any domain. The component consists of the user input (i.e. text, voice, multi-selection), question processing, and user interface modules. Two use cases are developed and provided to demonstrate the component’s features, benefits, and usage. The goal of this project is to pave the way for next-generation information systems by mitigating the challenges of developing voice-enabled and domain-informed smart assistants for the associates of any domain.

For the complete paper, please visit https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.02507

Check out the GitHub repo at https://github.com/uihilab/instant-expert.

How To Use

The InstantExpert do not require any frameworks and can be integrated into any website using pure HTML. To use it, please follow the steps below.

  • Make sure Jquery is imported:
<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.3.1/jquery.min.js"></script>
  • Import InstantExpert as a script:
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/gh/uihilab/expert-web-component@master/lib/instant-expert.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  • Include the web component in your html and set the 'engine' to your webhook:
<instant-expert id="bing-expert" engine="https://expert-component-example-bing.herokuapp.com/"></instant-expert>

That's it! You can now use your virtual expert.

Optional Configurations

To add a list of example questions to allow the users to browse the questions that your expert is capable of answering, set the questions and their categories as shown below in JavaScript.

var expert = document.getElementById("bing-expert");
var questionList = [
                      ["What is machine learning?",               "Definition"],
                      ["What's a troodontidae?",                  "Definition"],
                      ["Is there such a thing as Satire comedy?", "Definition"],
                      ["What RNA stands for?",                    "Definition"],
                      ["What's the meaning of hydrograph?",       "Definition"],

                      ["Which algorithms have been used for predictive modeling?",    "Reference"],
                      ["How many medals did the US win in the 2012 summer Olympics?", "Reference"],
                      ["When did Berlin host the Olympics?",                          "Reference"],
                      ["Who played Morpheus in The Matrix",                           "Reference"],
                      ["How tall is Barack Obama?",                                   "Reference"],

                      ["How to find happiness?",                  "Conversational/Fun"],
                      ["What's the first rule of Fight Club?",    "Conversational/Fun"],
                      ["What does the fox say",                   "Conversational/Fun"],
                      ["Can you pass the Turing test?",           "Conversational/Fun"],
                      ["How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?", "Conversational/Fun"]
                   ];
expert.setQuestions(questionList);

There are a number of attributes to customize the InstantExpert web component which below table summarizes.

Attribute Name Expected Value Description
engine string The webhook link that will be used to make a POST request to get the answer for user's question. The question text will be passed with the parameter named "searchValue". As the response, it expects a JSON file with the the field "resultText"
engineDataKey string The key name to pass the question text to the engine. The question will be passed to the engine as a parameter with a POST request in this format: {engineDataKey: questionText}. The default is 'question'.
engineResponseKey string The key name to access the answer text in the JSON object returned by the engine. The default is 'resultText'.
logo-src string The link for the source of the logo.
logo-hidden boolean Toggle logo's visibility. True=visible, false=hidden
textbox-placeholder string The placeholder text that will be displayed on the input text box.
no-question-list boolean Disable the question list. If true, question list will not be displayed.
no-voice boolean Disable voice input. If true, voice input will be disabled.
expert-button-src string The link for the source of the always-visible button to toggle the expert component.

Notes

  • The link of the 'engine' webhook should use 'https' if voice-input is desired. If not, regular 'http' connection can be used.
  • If the HTTP request to the webhook needs modification, we encourage you to modify the source code of the Instant Expert Web Component and use it as you please.

Use Cases

Microsoft Cognitive Services - Project Answer Search

We have developed an open-source example use case to use Expert Web Component to ask natural language questions to get factual responses using the Project Answer Search by Microsoft Cognitive Services Lab.

  • To test this example by yourself, just download examples/bing-bot/use-case and run index.html on Google Chrome.

    • It uses an engine that is hosted on Heroku for free, and it is subject to limitations.
    • The first time a question is asked, system might take few seconds to wake up Heroku. After that, the responses should be instantaneous.
    • It is only intended for demonstration purposes, and not advised and allowed for production use.
  • To modify/host this example yourself, please follow the directions on examples/bing-bot/bot-source

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The Flood Expert

The presented framework have been implemented in the field of flooding as part of the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), and named as "Flood Expert" (Sermet and Demir 2018). IFIS is a one-stop web-based platform for real-time and historical flood-related data management, analysis, and visualization including flood inundation maps, flood conditions and forecasts (Demir and Krajewski, 2013). The framework powers its data resources and capabilities using IFIS for flood-related knowledge generation. Figures below show the framework’s integration with IFIS to establish a precedent.

This use case is not open-source, however, is beneficial to demonstrate the Expert Web Component's real-life usage in environmental sciences.

Usage of Flood Expert to control the IFIS functionalities via natural language questions. The list interface that allows the exploration of the supported questions grouped into broad categories.
Alt Text Alt Text

Supported Browsers

The presented web component is supported by default in;

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Opera
  • Safari

Together, these browsers have a total market share of 85.6% as of February 2019.

The speech recognition is only supported in Google Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft Edge Dev which constitute approximately the 57.8% of all users, as of June 2019.

Sources: Mozilla, W3Counter, Can I Use Speech Recognition

Feedback

Feel free to send us feedback by filing an issue on the GitHub repo: https://github.com/uihilab/instant-expert

License

This project is licensed under the MIT License.

Acknowledgements

This project is developed by the University of Iowa Hydroinformatics Lab (UIHI Lab): https://hydroinformatics.uiowa.edu/.

References

  • Demir, I. and Krajewski, W.F., 2013. Towards an integrated flood information system: centralized data access, analysis, and visualization. Environmental Modelling & Software, 50, 77-84
  • Sermet, Y., & Demir, I. (2018). An intelligent system on knowledge generation and communication about flooding. Environmental Modelling & Software, 108, 51-60.

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