Collaborating Authors

CES for Marketers: Alexa Wows, Virtual Reality Underwhelms


Over the past few years the CES trade show has become a familiar post-holidays pilgrimage for many of the country's biggest marketers. They see the event as a way to get a sneak peek at the latest tech gadgets and technologies that can help them engage with their customers. This year marketing executives from companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell Soup and PepsiCo Inc. made their way to Las Vegas for the gathering. The convention was jam-packed with everything from self-driving cars to robots that play chess to Procter & Gamble's air-freshener spray that can connect with Alphabet Inc.'s Nest home to automatically release pleasant scents in the home. But there was one category that seemed to especially win over marketers: virtual assistants.

Automatic Bayesian Density Analysis Machine Learning

Making sense of a dataset in an automatic and unsupervised fashion is a challenging problem in statistics and AI. Classical approaches for {exploratory data analysis} are usually not flexible enough to deal with the uncertainty inherent to real-world data: they are often restricted to fixed latent interaction models and homogeneous likelihoods; they are sensitive to missing, corrupt and anomalous data; moreover, their expressiveness generally comes at the price of intractable inference. As a result, supervision from statisticians is usually needed to find the right model for the data. However, since domain experts are not necessarily also experts in statistics, we propose Automatic Bayesian Density Analysis (ABDA) to make exploratory data analysis accessible at large. Specifically, ABDA allows for automatic and efficient missing value estimation, statistical data type and likelihood discovery, anomaly detection and dependency structure mining, on top of providing accurate density estimation. Extensive empirical evidence shows that ABDA is a suitable tool for automatic exploratory analysis of mixed continuous and discrete tabular data.

An Algebraic Graphical Model for Decision with Uncertainties, Feasibilities, and Utilities

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Numerous formalisms and dedicated algorithms have been designed in the last decades to model and solve decision making problems. Some formalisms, such as constraint networks, can express "simple" decision problems, while others are designed to take into account uncertainties, unfeasible decisions, and utilities. Even in a single formalism, several variants are often proposed to model different types of uncertainty (probability, possibility...) or utility (additive or not). In this article, we introduce an algebraic graphical model that encompasses a large number of such formalisms: (1) we first adapt previous structures from Friedman, Chu and Halpern for representing uncertainty, utility, and expected utility in order to deal with generic forms of sequential decision making; (2) on these structures, we then introduce composite graphical models that express information via variables linked by "local" functions, thanks to conditional independence; (3) on these graphical models, we finally define a simple class of queries which can represent various scenarios in terms of observabilities and controllabilities. A natural decision-tree semantics for such queries is completed by an equivalent operational semantics, which induces generic algorithms. The proposed framework, called the Plausibility-Feasibility-Utility (PFU) framework, not only provides a better understanding of the links between existing formalisms, but it also covers yet unpublished frameworks (such as possibilistic influence diagrams) and unifies formalisms such as quantified boolean formulas and influence diagrams. Our backtrack and variable elimination generic algorithms are a first step towards unified algorithms.

Machine learning prowess on display


More than 80 Amazon scientists and engineers will attend this year's International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) in Stockholm, Sweden, with 11 papers co-authored by Amazonians being presented. "ICML is one of the leading outlets for machine learning research," says Neil Lawrence, director of machine learning for Amazon's Supply Chain Optimization Technologies program. "It's a great opportunity to find out what other researchers have been up to and share some of our own learnings." At ICML, members of Lawrence's team will present a paper titled "Structured Variationally Auto-encoded Optimization," which describes a machine-learning approach to optimization, or choosing the values for variables in some process that maximize a particular outcome. The first author on the paper is Xiaoyu Lu, a graduate student at the University of Oxford who worked on the project as an intern at Amazon last summer, then returned in January to do some follow-up work.

Who is Watching You Eat?

AAAI Conferences

Many of the seminal papers in preference handling have used food preferences as motivating examples for their work. As foodies, the authors find this particularly motivating. While we think that there is both research and commercial potential in preference-based software for restaurants, we believe that serious application of the MPREF community's technology to the problem of personal preference-driven presentation of menus, seating, etc., will require significant further innovation. We broadly survey the current use of preferences in making the dining-out experience more enjoyable, and we look at the states of the art for preference representation and reasoning, and for restaurant software. We illustrate some of our points with a short story.