The Internet has changed a lot in the past decade in a half, but the starkest difference has probably been the transition from giving people what they ask for, to figuring out what people need.
Predicting human behavior is key to the future of many companies, especially those in e-commerce and on mobile. If you can accurately predict where someone will be going, and when they will be there, you can more easily target them and serve the best ads and deals.
Yahoo is a company that wants to be at the forefront of this movement, and so it has entered into an agreement Carnegie Mellon University, will will enable CMU researchers to easily experiment with Yahoo’s real-time data services,, it was announced on Wednesday.
Named Project InMind, the five-year deal is worth $10 million, and it will let the CMU researchers test out new ways that machine learning, as well as interface technologies, can better understand human behavior and predict online needs and intentions.
A key part of this is the "mobile toolkit," which is being described as a "living laboratory." It is a place for researchers to explore new approaches that will ultimately allow Yahoo to better predict user needs and intentions, leading to a better user experience.
The deal is a win-win. For CMU researchers, they get to have hands-on experience with Yahoo's technology.
“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for our students and faculty to work directly with a team of leading-edge researchers from Yahoo Labs on technologies that could benefit hundreds of millions of mobile users,” Dr. Randal E. Bryant, University Professor and Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a statement.
“The overall commitment in this new partnership is a testament to our shared desire to advance the science of machine learning, user interfaces, and mobile technologies.”
As for Yahoo, it will allow them to gain access to some of the best minds, have them enhance their products for free, and perhaps find future employees for the company.
"All of us here at Yahoo Labs can’t wait for the opportunity to work with the exceptional faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon, which has established itself as a premier institution for machine learning and human-computer interaction research, and these are the main focal areas of our partnership," Dr. Ron Brachman, Yahoo Labs' chief, said in a blog post regarding the announcement.
"As part of this partnership, we’re creating a way for CMU researchers to work directly with Yahoo’s software and infrastructure. This should allow us to speed up the pace of personalization research, especially in a mobile setting, and ultimately create a better user experience for our hundreds of millions of users."
In addition to the research, the deal also includes a new Yahoo-sponsored fellowship program at CMU, which will provide financial and research support to computer science students and faculty members.
These so-called "Yahoo Fellows" will have the opportunity to pursue research in disciplines that include machine learning, mobile technologies, human-computer interaction, personalization, novel interaction techniques, and natural language processing,
They will get annual financial support from Yahoo, and mentorship from world-class computer scientists at Yahoo Labs and CMU.
The InMind Project will be directed at CMU by Dr. Tom Mitchell, Fredkin University Professor of Computer Science and Machine Learning and Head of the Machine Learning Department, and by Dr. Justine Cassell, the Charles M. Geschke Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.
"Tom has been a worldwide thought leader in machine learning for many years, and his leadership in creating the Machine Learning Department and running it since its inception has been spectacular," said Brachman
"We’ve been brainstorming this new collaboration together for many months, and we are both incredibly excited to get it off the ground."
(Image source: http://yahoolabs.tumblr.com)