Patent published on August 8, 2023

Helping IBM's Watson Assistant Become a Better Chat Partner by Learning to Ask the Right Questions

International Business Machines (IBM), the time-honored cornerstone in the world of computers, has recently received a patent, US11720634B2, aimed at transforming the manner in which we engage with chat systems. The article, titled "", unveils an innovative path in the field of computerized conversational search.

This tech novelty is about teaching a machine, like IBM's Watson Assistant, to improve its dialogue by asking the right questions. To achieve this, it learns from previous chats between humans and the responses given during those interactions. This amassed knowledge assists the computer in comprehending how to pose useful inquiries when people are seeking certain information.

What led IBM towards this creation? It was the understandings around how an average user retrieves information online. In the ocean of data available, even proficient searchers find it tough to fish out relevant information. User frustration starts mounting when the initial set of results delivered by a search engine miss the mark. To get to the desired details, they often have to enter into several rounds of refining and soliciting from the search engine. In its essence, this new patent is IBM's answer to enhance users' searching experience by making machines understand and communicate more like humans, recognizing user needs and asking clarifying questions intuitively.

IBM's new patent will provide an upper hand in these situations by generating relevant clarification questions based on a machine's learning experience. This happens by using real conversations it previously had with users. During a conversation, the system uses these insights to produce suitable clarification questions that can, in turn, lead to the final search result that satisfies the user's query. Illustrated with figures (FIG.1, FIG.2, and FIG.3), the patent shows an exemplary setup for training the language model to generate these questions, as well as the methods it uses during a conversational search session.

This innovation does not only aid in better information retrieval but also enhances the direct interaction between the user and the machine. However, remember the worth of a patent is in its ability to bring an improvement to real-world applications. As exciting as these advancements sound, it's important to note that a patent is just a blueprint and doesn't guarantee a product. There's no certainty when, or even if, this patented technology will appear in the market. We can only anticipate and look forward to experiencing such novel conversational systems in the future.

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