Masterclass: Designing and developing a conversational chatbot

2nd July 2018, Church House, Belfast, Cost: £150

Instructor: Professor Michael McTear (

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Introduction to chatbots and conversational interfaces

  • Definitions, types of chatbot, use cases
  • The technology of chatbots: the role of Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computer Interaction, and Natural Language Processing
  • The chatbot development lifecycle

Tools for chatbot development

  • Overview of messaging platforms
  • Authoring tools and frameworks
  • Chatbot analytics

Hands-on tutorial: developing a chatbot

Introduction to the Actions on Google platform for building a chatbot for the Google Assistant and many other devices

  • Elements of the chatbot architecture: Actions and Invocation, Conversation, Fulfillment
  • Designing the conversation flow

Using Dialogflow for natural language understanding and dialogue management

  • Creating an agent
  • Defining intents and entities
  • Defining conversation flow: slot-filling dialogues, follow-up and fallback intents
  • Building fulfillment: using a webhook for business logic

Using Google Templates: an alternative approach using pre-defined templates and personae

Previewing the chatbot using the Actions Simulator

Discussion and Q&A

  • The importance of chatbot design: guidelines
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Future directions

Biography of Prof. Michael McTear

Michael McTear is an Emeritus Professor at Ulster University with a special research interest in spoken language technologies. He is the author of several books, including Spoken Dialogue Technology: Toward The Conversational User Interface, Springer Verlag, 2004, Spoken Dialogue Systems, Morgan and Claypool, 2010, (with Kristiina Jokinen), Voice Application Development for Android, Packt Publishing, 2013 (with Zoraida Callejas), and The Conversational Interface: Talking to Smart Devices, Springer, 2016 (with Zoraida Callejas and David Griol). He was Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii (1986-87), the University of Koblenz, Germany (1994-95), and University of Granada, Spain (2006, 2007, 2008) and was a visiting researcher for two summer internships at British Telecoms Research Laboratories. Professor McTear has delivered keynote addresses and tutorials at many conferences and workshops and has participated in 7 European funded projects and in 4 nationally funded projects. He also played a leading role in several projects with hospitals that involved designing and developing voice user interfaces to support home monitoring for patients with diabetes and to measure and analyze INR readings.

This practical hands-on course will introduce attendees to the concepts, methods, and issues involved in the design and development of conversational chatbots. Following a brief introduction to chatbots and conversational interfaces, the course will explore relevant technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computer Interaction, and Natural Language Processing. Existing tools and developer platforms will be introduced and compared. The main part of the course will be devoted to hands-on design and development of a sample chatbot using the Actions on Google framework, which supports the building of chatbots for Google Assistant.