Spoken Language Systems
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory


What is Orion?
What does Orion know?
How do I talk to Orion?
How do I call Orion?
How does Orion work?

What is Orion?
Orion is a conversational system that performs off-line tasks and initiates later contact with a user at a pre-negotiated time, to deliver timely information. Orion has two major episodes of activity: the enrollment of new tasks and the execution of pending tasks. The user can enroll a task either by typing at a graphical interface or by calling Orion on the telephone. Orion will solicit the necessary information to fill out all the particulars of the task, including phone number and time(s) to call, and the information to provide during the call-back. The execution of pending tasks may involve monitoring dynamic information sources, such as the predicted arrival time of a flight or the traffic conditions on a specific highway.

What does Orion know?
Orion has a wide base of knowledge, because it draws on information provided by other systems. For example, it can provide traffic reports, report weather conditions, and determine when a particular flight is expected to land. It can also simply record a spoken message for later delivery, either to the person who spoke it or to someone else. It understands a variety of questions about reminders, such as to take medicine or to pick up a son at soccer practice. It can be very useful as an alarm clock, while at the same time providing, for example, a weather report for the day or a status report on the traffic on the commute to work.

How do I talk to Orion?
Orion is still in its infancy, so it may only know a limited number of ways of refering to a particular request. It works most effectively if your speech is fluent, with very few hesitations, etc. We are actively working on improving Orion's robustness.

When accessing Orion via a Web Browser, a user can check on their pending tasks, and make any changes to a particular task by clicking on it with the mouse and following up with instructions for the adjustment, which could be, for example to change the wake-up call time.

Below are some example queries that Orion currently understands.

  • Call me at 4:30 to remind me to call my mother.
  • Send me email every weekday morning if the traffic on route 93 is at a standstill.
  • Call me when flight ninety two lands in Dallas.

How do I call Orion?
Orion is not available to the public at this time. Stay tuned.

How does Orion work?
As are all of our current systems, Orion utilizes a set of core speech technologies which are integrated with the GALAXY client-server architecture, our platform for system development. Two separate Orion dialogue managers control the tasks of enrolling new tasks and executing existing tasks, respectively. The task-enrollment server engages a user in a dialogue to fill out a form for a new task to be performed, or to modify or delete a pre-existing task. The task-execution server periodically updates all pending tasks, re-evaluating dynamic information, such as the status of a particular flight, when appropriate. It communicates with other domain servers, such as the Pegasus system for flight status and the Voyager system for traffic updates, via questions posed in English text. It issues a call-back or sends e-mail to a user, according to the instructions provided in the specified task form. Orion is still in an early stage of its development cycle, but it has introduced several interesting new research issues, such as continuous state maintenance and contact verification.

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