Grounding Open-Domain Instructions to Automate Web Support Tasks

Nancy Xu, Sam Masling, Michael Du, Giovanni Campagna, Larry Heck, James Landay, Monica S Lam

Grounding natural language instructions on the web to perform previously unseen tasks enables accessibility and automation. We introduce a task and dataset to train AI agents from open-domain, step-by-step instructions originally written for people. We build RUSS (Rapid Universal Support Service) to tackle this problem. RUSS consists of two models: First, a BERT-LSTM with pointers parses instructions to ThingTalk, a domain-specific language we design for grounding natural language on the web. Then, a grounding model retrieves the unique IDs of any webpage elements requested in ThingTalk. RUSS may interact with the user through a dialogue (e.g. ask for an address) or execute a web operation (e.g. click a button) inside the web runtime. To augment training, we synthesize natural language instructions mapped to ThingTalk. Our dataset consists of 80 different customer service problems from help websites, with a total of 741 step-by-step instructions and their corresponding actions. RUSS achieves 76.7% end-to-end accuracy predicting agent actions from single instructions. It outperforms state-of-the-art models that directly map instructions to actions without ThingTalk. Our user study shows that RUSS is preferred by actual users over web navigation.

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