The role of conversational assistants has become more prevalent in helping people increase their productivity. Document-centered assistance, for example to help an individual quickly review a document, has seen less significant progress, even though it has the potential to tremendously increase a user’s productivity. This type of document-centered assistance is the focus of this paper. Our contributions are three-fold: (1) We first present a survey to understand the space of document-centered assistance and the capabilities people expect in this scenario. (2) We investigate the types of queries that users will pose while seeking assistance with documents, and show that document-centered questions form the majority of these queries.
(3) We present a set of initial machine learned models that show that (a) we can accurately detect document-centered questions, and (b) we can build reasonably accurate models for answering such questions. These positive results are encouraging, and suggest that even greater results may be attained with continued study of this interesting and novel problem space. Our findings have implications for the design of intelligent systems to support task completion via natural interactions with documents.