An AI assistant for researchers?

An AI assistant for researchers?

Second Amazon Award for TU Darmstadt

Darmstadt, 18 October 2023. A team from TU Darmstadt has received an Amazon University Collaboration Award for its research in the field of machine learning. It is the second research award from the US company to go to TU Darmstadt in two years. The team will collaborate with AI researchers from Amazon Alexa in Berlin as part of the funding.

Many people have probably come into contact with chatbots and voice models in recent months, whether at work, at university or in the classroom. All of these models build on research in areas such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP).

However, the rapid progress in Natural Language Processing also leads to the paradoxical situation that even the top scientists often lose track of the current state of research: The available scientific literature is simply growing far too fast. This is also due to the fact that research itself is increasingly using machine learning algorithms and a flood of ever new language models, which further accelerate the scientific output. Against this backdrop, even AI professionals find it difficult to keep up with the latest developments – and a plethora of scientific papers.

A team from the TU Darmstadt is trying to find a solution to this problem, whose research project has been funded by Amazon since this year with an Amazon University Collaboration Award. The project aims to create a “virtual research assistant” that quickly and reliably helps researchers to close their own knowledge gaps by answering their questions. The assistant will pick out the right content from the mass of accessible scientific literature and provide it in dialogue with the user as a natural language answer.

It is particularly important to the AI researchers to guarantee the accuracy of the information given. Many current chatbots repeatedly fail to give factually correct answers. For the virtual assistant, the researchers are working on a combination of large language models with so-called symbolic reasoning, which should prevent the generation of false information. This should also promote greater transparency in how the assistant arrives at its results.

The research project entitled “Modeling Task-oriented Dialogues Grounded in Scientific Literature” is being conducted at the Ubiquitous Knowledge Processing (UKP) Lab at TU Darmstadt in cooperation with Amazon Alexa. The first phase is planned for two years (2023-2025) with a budget in the low six-figure range. The financial support will also be used to fund a PhD student position. The project is led by Prof. Dr. Iryna Gurevych, head of the UKP Lab and founding member of

The findings from the project could not only make the work of future AI researchers easier – they could possibly also find application in other areas with rapidly growing knowledge bases, for example in medical research. Because here, too, sifting through existing research takes a lot of time. The team expects this to have long-term and transformative effects for researchers and professionals.

The Amazon University Collaboration Award for the machine learning project is the second grant from the US company to go to TU Darmstadt within two years: Professor Jan Peters’ robotics research has already been funded with an Amazon Research Award since 2022.