5 Key Takeaways From UMAP 2017

Roberto TurrinThe User Modeling, Adaptation, and Personalization (UMAP) conference brings together a wide community of researchers and experts working on systems that adapt to users, model their profiles, and eventually personalize their experiences. The 25th annual conference was held this July in Bratislava, Slovakia.

As Head of Technology here at Cloud Academy, I’m especially interested in systems that can use what they know about individuals and even groups of users to provide a personalized experience. As a first-time attendee, I thought I would share my experience of the conference and 5 takeaways from the event.

Presentations leave time for discussion

As a newbie in the UMAP community, I immediately noticed that the conference format was different compared to similar events. Where typical conferences allow up to 30 minutes for paper presentations, UMAP gives speakers between 10-15 minutes to present their papers. While I’m sure that this is challenging for the presenter, it does force you to go straight to the most important points, ignoring marginal details.

Another advantage of this format is that it allows much more time for discussions, round tables, and interactions between speakers and their audiences. Thus, you have the opportunity to dive into the details of the research activities that interest you most.

User modeling and personalization in education

Many presentations focused on some of the known problems in the education industry. There are aspects of both in-person and online training (MOOCs) that make it difficult to model the user profile, which makes it even more difficult to provide a personalized experience.

One of the main issues in education is the fact that the user profile changes over time. Actually, the time-dependency of the user profile is claimed by many domains. However, this is usually either a slow process, where the user more or less naturally changes her tastes over time, or a temporary status where the user has specific, occasional interests.

In education, changes, among other factors, are driven by the user’s learning activity. While watching a movie does not necessarily impact my skills, watching a video course will definitely impact my knowledge on a given topic. As a consequence, personalization tools have to take into account changes in a user’s profile. This is not only for identifying a user’s interests (e.g., Java, machine learning, etc.), but also to estimate the user’s aptitude for a topic in order to propose learning resources at the right level of difficulty.

Hot topic: IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) devices, where sensors collect the information required to model user behaviors, was a hot topic at UMAP.

I’ll share an example. In personalizing the user experience for a museum visitor, a set of totems is distributed among the rooms in the museum and are used to both gather user data (where the user is, which path she’s following, how long it took to move from one place to another, etc.) and to dispatch information to the user (suggestions about where to go next based on the number of visitors currently in other rooms, etc.).

Explanation and scrutability beyond accuracy

5 key takeaways from UMAP 2017
If I had to sum it up, the main message of the conference is: “if you cannot say why, it is meaningless for the user.”

Thus, while advanced algorithms such as deep learning can provide great accuracy, the community’s preference is for solutions that can explain what made the algorithm select certain items.

Personally, I am not drastically against black-box solutions: the key is to make the user trust the system. If I buy a car and the car works as expected, I don’t need to know how the engine works. It’s when the car stops performing as expected that I may start thinking about what may have caused the problem, and what it will take to fix it. A similar concept can be applied to machine learning algorithms.

In attempts to “explain” something that, intrinsically, does not have an explanation, e.g, neural networks, in some cases, we may be trying to rationalize and find the logic behind an unknowable process. The risk is that we force explanations in phenomena that are not under our control. An explanation for the sake of explaining isn’t useful.

The UMAP community

I would say that the different format (e.g., more space for discussion) and the emphasis on key modeling and personalization concepts (e.g., explainability) are two elements that really resound with the community of attendees at this year’s event. (And a love for music didn’t hurt!)
UMAP social event

Compared to other events, I noticed that there was a moderate industry presence, both in terms of sponsorship and presenters. The risk of this is that, while many research projects may experiment with appealing solutions, they may do so at the expense of feasibility in the real world. At the same time, this may also result in researchers and projects not having the visibility that they deserve.

Let’s see how the conference will evolve next year!

Avatar

Written by

Roberto Turrin

Sr. Data Scientist, currently leading the data-driven activities at Cloud Academy.

Related Posts

Chris Gambino
Chris Gambino
— July 16, 2019

Introduction to Streaming Data

Designing a streaming data pipeline presents many challenges, particularly around specific technology requirements. When designing a cloud-based solution, an architect is no longer faced with the question, “How do I get this job done with the technology we have?” but rather, “What is th...

Read more
  • amazon kinesis
  • Big Data
  • Data scoping
  • IoT
  • Streaming data
Chris Gambino
Chris Gambino
— March 7, 2019

Design Thinking for the 21st Century – An Essential Skill

We live in a digital-driven world with continuous and rapid advances in technology. As such, understanding how to design by harnessing the power of new technologies is an essential skill that professionals need to develop in order to achieve their truest potential.  Careful and consider...

Read more
  • Design Thinking
  • IoT
Avatar
Dwayne Monroe
— December 17, 2018

Azure Internet of Things (Azure IoT) – An Introduction

IoT, or the ‘Internet of Things’, is an intriguing and rapidly growing technology that's bringing significant change to important elements of modern life. According to Gartner, IoT security spending alone is set to reach $1.5 billion during 2018. Like many newly minted terms, the def...

Read more
  • Azure
  • IoT
Avatar
Logan Rakai
— November 29, 2018

IoT Thrives on AWS — re:Invent IoT Announcement Roundup

The Internet of Things (IoT) embeds technology into any physical thing to enable never before seen levels of connectivity. IoT is revolutionizing industries and creating many new market opportunities, with management consulting firm McKinsey predicting the IoT market reaching up to $581...

Read more
  • AWS
  • IoT
  • re:Invent 2018
Albert Qian
Albert Qian
— September 25, 2018

Microsoft Ignites Cloud Industry With Nadella Keynote

On Monday, Microsoft kicked off its Ignite conference, an annual gathering of developers and IT professionals. Over the next week, attendees will learn about upcoming Microsoft innovations in IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud (all while getting some good networki...

Read more
  • Events
  • IoT
  • Machine Learning
  • Security
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— January 9, 2018

Getting Started with IoT with AWS and Microsoft Azure

Companies have been using devices and sensors to measure and quantify data for a while now. By 2020, Gartner predicts that more than 65% of enterprises will adopt Internet of Things (IoT) products, compared to just 30% today. The low cost of devices and the wide availability of the inte...

Read more
  • Data Virtualization
  • IoT
  • Stream Analytics
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 6, 2017

New Azure, Google Cloud, DevOps Learning Paths & Labs: Get Ready for your Certification!

At Cloud Academy, we’re busy adding new content to help you achieve your goals across AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and DevOps. Whether you’re looking to get certified or just want to learn new skills, we know that getting started can be a stumbling block for learners ...

Read more
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • IoT
Stefano Bellasio
Stefano Bellasio
— June 14, 2017

Hands-on Labs: 7 New AWS Labs for Aurora, CI/CD with AWS, Encryption, Redshift, IoT, and More

I'm happy to announce that we have just published 7 new AWS Hands-on Labs in the Cloud Academy content library! With these new additions, we now offer 60 hands-on labs in our catalog.   Our AWS Hands-on Labs are one of our most important and appreciated products. With them, you can l...

Read more
  • Aurora
  • Hands-on Labs
  • IoT
  • RedShift
Stefano Bellasio
Stefano Bellasio
— June 1, 2017

Cloud Academy to Bring Continuous Training to Microsoft Azure IoT App Developers

Today I am proud to announce our collaboration with Microsoft and the Microsoft Azure IoT team to build learning paths, hands-on labs, quizzes, and high-quality learning material for the Cloud Academy library. At Cloud Academy, it is our mission to support our customers on the cloud ...

Read more
  • Azure
  • IoT
Avatar
Talia Wise
— May 11, 2017

Microsoft Launches Azure IoT Technical Training, Developers Can Start Quickly with IoT

Microsoft launches Azure IoT technical training: We are happy to share that we are part of the Microsoft Azure Technical Training program, which was highlighted yesterday at Microsoft Build 2017 in Seattle. The program provides online training content to help get developers up to spe...

Read more
  • Azure
  • IoT
Avatar
Scott Huntington
— November 13, 2016

A New Frontier: Car Cloud Computing

Car Cloud Computing: cloud is increasingly becoming part of our daily lives. It started with the virtual cloud where we store our photos and music, which can be easily accessed from any smart device. The "Internet of Things" trend allows us to connect a range of devices using the cloud,...

Read more
  • Cloud Computing
  • IoT
Avatar
Vineet Badola
— November 25, 2015

AWS IoT (Internet of Things): What is Amazon’s Role?

The potential benefits of the Internet of Things are matched only by its complexity and significant risks. How can the AWS IoT service make it all work? There's been a whole lot of attention focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) lately. Industry analysts are falling over each other w...

Read more
  • AWS
  • IoT