Making Better Recommendations with Online Profiling Agents

Danny Oh and Chew Lim Tan

In recent years, we have witnessed the success of autonomous agents applying machine learning techniques across a wide range of applications. However, agents applying the same machine learning techniques in online applications have not been so successful. Even agent-based hybrid recommender systems that combine information filtering techniques with collaborative filtering techniques have only been applied with considerable success to simple consumer goods such as movies, books, clothing and food. Complex, adaptive autonomous agent systems that can handle complex goods such as real estate, vacation plans, insurance, mutual funds, and mortgage have yet emerged. To a large extent, the reinforcement learning methods developed to aid agents in learning have been more successfully deployed in offline applications. The inherent limitations in these methods have rendered them somewhat ineffective in online applications. In this paper, we postulate that a small amount of prior knowledge and human-provided input can dramatically speed up online learning. We will demonstrate that our agent with its prior knowledge or "experiences" about the real estate domain — can effectively assist users in identifying requirements, especially unstated ones, quickly and unobtrusively.

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