Technology 3 min read

Meet Meena, Google's Human-Like Conversational AI



For chatbots, or Conversational AI agents, to perform at their best, they need goals of conversation to be well predefined. An AI-powered medical bot even scored better than GPs (general practitioners) at a medical exam designed for human doctors.

Usually highly specialized, chatbots can’t carry on an open-ended conversation in a human-like manner. There are some conversational agents designed to engage in a wide variety of conversational exchanges. But often they say things that don’t make any sense at all.

Researchers at Google AI have been working on open domain chatbots, which can go anywhere with a conversation just like a human does.

Google Meena: Toward Human-Like Conversational AI

Chatbots’ conversational skill is restricted to specific domains because they can’t make sense of the context. They don’t understand the nuances of speech and can’t go very deep into the layers of meaning. People often insert messages between the lines, use idioms, and can get sarcastic or adopt any form of expression.they deem fit.

But now, Google scientists claim to have cracked the design for open-domain dialog bots, introducing Meena.

According to its designers at Google AI, Meena is a neural conversational AI model that is the best in the business.

“A 2.6 billion parameter end-to-end trained neural conversational model… Meena can conduct conversations that are more sensible and specific than existing state-of-the-art chatbots.”

Google’s new chatbot can chat about pretty much anything, scoring much higher than the next best bot currently in the market.

In the paper “Towards a Human-like Open-Domain Chatbot,” Google AI researchers present Meena as:

“A multi-turn open-domain chatbot trained end-to-end on data mined and filtered from public domain social media conversations. This 2.6B parameter neural network is trained to minimize perplexity, an automatic metric that we compare against human judgment of multi-turn conversation quality.”

Google conversational ai Meena
Image credit: Google

Sensibleness and Specificity

Compared to OpenAI GPT-2, an existing state-of-the-art conversational AI, Meena has 1.7 times greater model capacity. Meena was also trained on 8.5 times more data, 341 GB of text, filtered from social media conversations.

To test Meena’s conversational sensibility and specificity, the Google AI team designed a new metric they call Sensibleness and Specificity Average (SSA). Meena scored 72% on SSA, not that low from a human-level SSA average score of 86%. The researchers think this is potentially within reach if they can minimize perplexity more.

The full version of Meena, which comes with a filtering mechanism and tuned decoding, scored even higher on  SSA (79%). That’s 23% higher than the next highest scoring conversational AI the team has tested.

This is just the start for the Meena team over at Google AI. After sensibleness and specificity, the researchers aim to try other attributes in their future work. That includes personality and factuality.

They will also be tackling safety and bias in conversation AI models, which they describe as a critical focus research area.

“We are evaluating the risks and benefits associated with externalizing the model checkpoint, however, and may choose to make it available in the coming months to help advance research in this area.”

Read More: Do you Know? There’s a Subreddit Only AI Chatbots can Post

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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