Adding natural language to your Bot

In the last post, Bots in an IoT context, I created a very simple bot to request the air quality in a room. To change the room, you had to type change room and then type the room name when requested. It would be much nicer to be able to give commands like change room to <roomname> or set the room to <roomname> or switch room to <roomname>. Instead of using regular expressions, you should use the Language Understanding Intelligent Service or LUIS in short.

In LUIS, you first create an app. In the app, you define things like intents and entities. In this case, I only need one intent which I called ChangeRoom. Because I am going to specify the name of the room in phrases I type, I also defined an entity called room.


Next, you need to specify utterances and tell LUIS what the intent of the utterance is (if LUIS does not match your intent to the utterance automatically). The example below shows an example utterance:


When you type the utterance and click the orange arrow, LUIS will analyze the utterance. In the case above, LUIS automatically matched the utterance to the ChangeRoom intent and also marked the word asterix as an entity. If you hover over the entity, you will see the entity name, in this case room.

You should enter several utterances that make sense for your scenario and fix the intent and entity if needed. After adding several utterances, it is time to train the model with the tiny link in the bottom left of the browser.

After training, it is time to publish the application. You will get a URL that you need to supply in your bot. You can also test some queries from the publish dialog. For instance:


If you click the link for the query above, you get a JSON response like below:


What you see in the response above, is that LUIS matched the query to intent ChangeRoom and that the room entity is set to Asterix with a score of 0.948. Great!!

Now it is time to use this in your bot. You will need the following code to be able to use the LUIS app from your code and use the LUIS recognizer in the intents:


Obviously, you set the URL of the recognizer to the URL you received after publishing the LUIS app. Next, use the LUIS intent (ChangeRoom remember), in your code as follows:


In the above code, the important part is extracting the room entity. We make sure that, when a room entity is not found, we give the user a message. Otherwise, we set the room in userData.roomName.

Now it is time to test the code in Slack or another service. Everything was set up in the previous post, so we just need to push the code changes to Azure App Services (git push azure commit). Just for fun, I will show the results in Skype:


As you can see, many different phrases can be used. Not all of them were entered in LUIS. Of course, not all phrases will work. It’s clear that new place is Obelix does not work. However, it’s very simple to go back to the LUIS app and add extra utterances, train the model and publish it again.

To sum things up:

  • Regular expressions are great to get started
  • Use LUIS to add natural language processing to your bot in a simple and intuitive way

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