Building an NLP Question Answering System with PyTorch, Hugging Face, and Gradio

Building an NLP Question Answering System with PyTorch, Hugging Face, and Gradio

Natural Language Processing (NLP) has witnessed significant advancements in recent years, thanks to powerful libraries like PyTorch and pre-trained language models from Hugging Face. In this article, I will take you through the journey of creating a question-answering system using these cutting-edge tools and deploying it as a user-friendly web service with Gradio.

Setting the Stage

Before we dive into the technical details, let’s briefly discuss what we aim to achieve with this project. We want to build a system that takes a passage of text and a question as input, and returns the answer from the passage. This is a common use case for chatbots, virtual assistants, and information retrieval systems.

To kickstart your journey into building an NLP question answering system, consider participating in a hackathon or a similar coding competition. Hackathons provide an excellent opportunity to challenge yourself, learn new skills, and create innovative solutions. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a newcomer to the field, hackathons offer a unique environment for collaboration and creativity.

Participating in a hackathon focused on NLP or AI can inspire your project idea and connect you with like-minded individuals. You might even find teammates with complementary skills to help you tackle different aspects of your project. Additionally, many hackathons offer access to mentors and experts who can provide guidance and support during the event.

Training the Question Answering Model

The heart of your NLP question answering system is the machine learning model that can understand text and provide accurate answers. PyTorch and Hugging Face Transformers make this task significantly more accessible.

PyTorch is a deep learning framework that provides an intuitive and flexible platform for building and training neural networks. It’s widely used in the research and AI community, making it an excellent choice for your project.

Hugging Face Transformers is a game-changer in the world of NLP. This library offers a vast collection of pre-trained language models, such as BERT, RoBERTa, GPT-2, and more. These models are trained on massive amounts of text data, allowing them to understand and generate human-like text. You can leverage these pre-trained models and fine-tune them on your specific task, like question answering.

We used distilbert model for finetuning this use case.

why use DistilBERT

DistilBERT is a smaller and faster version of the original BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) model, created by Hugging Face. It offers several advantages when it comes to training NLP models:

1. Reduced Model Size: One of the most significant advantages of DistilBERT is its smaller model size. It retains much of BERT’s performance while being considerably smaller in terms of the number of parameters. This reduced model size makes it more memory-efficient and easier to train and deploy, which can be particularly beneficial when working with limited computational resources.

2. Faster Inference: DistilBERT not only has a smaller model size but also significantly faster inference times compared to BERT. This makes it a practical choice for real-time or low-latency applications where quick responses are essential, such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and question-answering systems.

3. Similar Performance: Despite its reduced size, DistilBERT maintains competitive performance on various NLP tasks. It is pre-trained on a massive corpus of text data and retains much of the contextual understanding of language that BERT offers. For many applications, the performance difference between DistilBERT and BERT is negligible, making it a cost-effective choice.

4. Lower Training Costs: Training a large-scale language model like BERT can be computationally expensive and time-consuming. DistilBERT’s smaller size leads to reduced training costs in terms of hardware and time. This is advantageous for researchers, developers, and organizations with budget constraints.

5. Lower Carbon Footprint: The reduced size and faster training times of DistilBERT contribute to a smaller carbon footprint. Energy-efficient models are becoming increasingly important, and using DistilBERT aligns with environmental sustainability goals.

6. Easy Model Deployment: Smaller model sizes mean quicker and more straightforward model deployment, especially when serving models in cloud environments or on edge devices. The reduced memory footprint of DistilBERT allows it to fit more comfortably within the constraints of various deployment scenarios.

7. Transfer Learning: DistilBERT is well-suited for transfer learning. You can fine-tune it on specific NLP tasks with relatively smaller datasets compared to BERT. This makes it an excellent choice for domain-specific or niche applications.

8. Community and Resources: DistilBERT benefits from the broader BERT community and resources, including pre-trained checkpoints, tutorials, and community support. This makes it easier to find solutions to problems and get help if needed.

In summary, DistilBERT offers a compelling trade-off between model size and performance. It is an efficient choice for a wide range of NLP applications, especially when you need to balance the quality of results with computational resources and inference speed.

Utilizing the Intel Developer Cloud

If you’re looking to supercharge your project, consider utilizing the resources provided by the Intel Developer Cloud. This cloud platform offers a range of tools and resources optimized for AI and deep learning tasks, making it an excellent choice for training and deploying NLP models.

Intel’s cloud infrastructure includes high-performance CPUs, GPUs, and accelerators, which can significantly speed up model training and inference. Additionally, they provide libraries and tools that are optimized for Intel hardware, ensuring that your NLP model runs efficiently.

By leveraging the Intel Developer Cloud, you can access cutting-edge hardware, optimize your model for performance, and ensure that your question answering system can handle a large volume of requests when deployed as a web service with Gradio.

In summary, by participating in a hackathon, using PyTorch and Hugging Face Transformers, and tapping into the resources offered by the Intel Developer Cloud, you can set the stage for a successful NLP question answering project. These initial steps will provide you with the inspiration, tools, and infrastructure needed to create a powerful and innovative solution in the world of natural language processing.

Deploying using gradio

One-click deployment to Gradio from Hugging Face involves effortlessly transforming a pre-trained Hugging Face model into an interactive web application. By defining a Gradio interface that connects user inputs to the model’s predictions, Gradio simplifies the deployment process, enabling you to share and utilize your NLP model in real-time, with a user-friendly interface, and minimal coding effort.


In this article, we explored the process of creating an NLP question-answering system using PyTorch, Hugging Face, and Gradio. We began by preparing our data and selecting a pre-trained model. We then fine-tuned the model on the SQuAD dataset and deployed it as a user-friendly web service with Gradio.

The power of combining these tools lies in their ease of use and the ability to create robust NLP applications with minimal effort. With this foundation, you can further fine-tune your model, optimize the web interface, and even deploy it on a cloud platform for scalability. The possibilities are endless, and this project is a testament to the exciting developments in NLP and deep learning.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive in, build your own NLP applications, and witness the magic of PyTorch, Hugging Face, and Gradio!

View my code here:

View my app here: