Lately, I have been working intensively on a project in the course WASP – Autonomous systems 2. The project’s purpose was to learn about conversational systems and create one using the Furhat system.
Our group decided to create a movie recommender system called Mr. Rotten. I got the role of dialogue designer. Others were responsible for creating a script that finds suitable movies, and some were responsible for creating a server connecting these two together. We were all happy since we all got to do things that interested us. But we terribly misjudged the amount of time these different tasks would take. I spent approximately 2-5 times more time on this project than the others, but it is ok. It was fun, enlightening, and intriguing to do.
As the dialogue designer, I (obviously) designed the dialogue. The Furhat system uses Kotlin, a language I have never seen before this project. Kotlin has some similarities with Java, which I have some experience with, so it was doable. A conversational system has different states for different parts of the dialogue, such as ”greeting state”, ”interaction state”, etc. These states can inherit properties and methods from each other and can build up very advanced structures. The Furhat system listens to ”intents” that the user has. The actual values of the intents are called ”entities”. When the system discovers an intent, it will react to that in some way. For example, Mr. Rotten listens to the names of actors or genres and upon discovery switches to the ”select actor” or the ”select genre” state.
As you hear, there are many details, and all have to get in place for the dialogue to flow. And as I said before, I have never worked with either the programming language or a conversational system before, so there were many new things for me to learn. Needless to say, I learned a lot! But if you ever want to build a conversational system, I will happily discuss it with you, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Yesterday I had some things to do, handing in the project being one of them. But after handing it in, I lost all motivation to do anything else. So I decided to take the afternoon off and create some Christmas cards for my family instead. It is such a praxis always to work 8-17, so I felt like I was misbehaving when deciding to end my working day early. Even though I have had some long days during this project, working way more than expected!
I talked to one of my supervisors today and told her about this, and she was so supportive! “Of course, you should end your day! You have done a wonderful job with the project, way more than expected.” And she said the words that I will remember: “Your health is always priority one. Sometimes enough is enough.”