Google AI releases ‘RecSim NG’, a “Flexible, Scalable, Differentiable Simulation of Recommender Systems”

One or two years ago, Google AI released RecSim — A Configurable Simulation Platform for Recommender Systems. Now, Martin Mladenov from Google AI announced the next generation (NG) of RecSim, i.e. RecSim NG.

Martin describes RecSim NG as follows.

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 blocksthat, 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 patterns to encapsulate shared parameters that govern various agent behaviors, like user satisfaction, and uses templates to define large populations of agents concisely in a way that abstracts agent “individuality” without duplicating invariant behaviors.

Apart from the typical use of simulators to generate Monte Carlo samples, RecSim NG directly enables various other forms of probabilistic reasoning. While domain knowledge and intuition are key to modeling any recommendation problem, the simulation fidelity needed to bridge the so-called “sim2real” gap can only be achieved by calibrating the simulator’s model to observed data. For data-driven simulation, RecSim NG makes it easy to implement various model-learning algorithms, such as expectation-maximization (EM), generative adversarial training, etc.

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