Posted by Martin Mladenov, Research Scientist and Chih-wei Hsu, Software Engineer, Google Research
Recommender systems are the primary interface connecting users to a wide variety of online content, and therefore must overcome a number of challenges across the user population in order to serve them equitably. To this end, in 2019 we released RecSim, a configurable platform for authoring simulation environments to facilitate the study of RL algorithms (the de facto standard ML approach for addressing sequential decision problems) in recommender systems. However, as the technology has progressed, it has become increasingly important to address the gap between simulation and real-world applications, ensuring that models are flexible and easily extendible, enabling probabilistic inference of user dynamics, and addressing computational efficiency.
To address these issues, we recently released RecSim NG, the “Next Generation” of simulators for recommender systems research and development. RecSim NG is a response to a set of use cases that have emerged as important challenges in the application of simulation to real-world problems. It addresses the gap between simulation and real-world applications, ensures the models are flexible and easily extendible, enables probabilistic inference of user dynamics, and addresses computational efficiency.
Overview of RecSim NG
RecSim NG is a scalable, modular, differentiable simulator implemented in Edward2 and TensorFlow. It offers a powerful, general probabilistic programming language for agent-behavior specification.
RecSim NG significantly expands the modeling capabilities of RecSim in two ways. First, the story API allows the simulation of scenarios where an arbitrary number of actors (e.g., recommenders, content consumers, content producers, advertisers) interact with one another. This enables the flexible modeling of entire recommender ecosystems, as opposed to the usual isolated user-recommender interaction setting. Second, we introduced a library of behavioral building blocks that, much like Keras layers, implement well-known modeling primitives that can be assembled to build complex models quickly. Following the object-oriented paradigm, RecSim NG uses entity
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