Natural conversational interfaces to geospatial databases

Guoray Cai, Hongmei Wang, Alan M. MacEachren, Sven Fuhrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Natural (spoken) language, combined with gestures and other human modalities, provides a promising alternative for interacting with computers, but such benefit has not been explored for interactions with geographical information systems. This paper presents a conceptual framework for enabling conversational human-GIS interactions. Conversations with a GIS are modeled as human-computer collaborative activities within a task domain. We adopt a mental state view of collaboration and discourse and propose a plan-based computational model for conversational grounding and dialogue generation. At the implementation level, our approach is to introduce a dialogue agent, GeoDialogue, between a user and a geographical information server. GeoDialogue actively recognizes user's information needs, reasons about detailed cartographic and database procedures, and acts cooperatively to assist user's problem solving. GeoDialogue serves as a semantic 'bridge' between the human language and the formal language that a GIS understands. The behavior of such dialogue-assisted human-GIS interfaces is illustrated through a scenario simulating a session of emergency response during a hurricane event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-221
Number of pages23
JournalTransactions in GIS
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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