FormYak: Converting forms to conversations

Abstract

Historically, people have interacted with companies and institutions through telephone-based dialogue systems and paper-based forms. Now, these interactions are rapidly moving to web- and phone-based chat systems. While converting traditional telephone dialogues to chat is relatively straightforward, converting forms to conversational interfaces can be challenging. In this work, we introduce methods and interfaces to enable the conversion of PDF and web-based documents that solicit user input into chat-based dialogues. Document data is first extracted to associate fields and their textual descriptions using meta-data and lightweight visual analysis. The field labels, their spatial layout, and associated text are further analyzed to group related fields into natural conversational units. These correspond to questions presented to users in chat interfaces to solicit information needed to complete the original documents and downstream processes they support. This user supplied data can be inserted into the source documents and/or in downstream databases. User studies of our tool show that it streamlines form-to-chat conversion and produces conversational dialogues of at least the same quality as a purely manual approach.