Yahoo, Carnegie Mellon University target mobile and machine learning via $10M partnership

Mobile services and personalization lie at the heart of Project InMind, a $10 million, five-year partnership between Yahoo and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

"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," said Ron Brachman, chief scientist and head of Yahoo Labs, in a blog entry.

Brachman told CNET that CMU researchers will gain access to Yahoo's APIs and data services, which will enable researchers to base their studies on mobile data from real users who opt in rather than relying upon artificial data sets.

"We like to think of this as part of a grand-scale living laboratory," Brachman said on Yahoo Labs' blog.

The first product of the partnership is a mobile toolkit designed to help CMU researchers dabble with Yahoo's real-time data services. The aim is to figure out how to personalize user services using machine learning algorithms that predict user intent as well as new human-computer interface technologies. However, Brachman said the partnership does not yet have "an articulated vision" regarding more specific goals.

Project InMind also features a Yahoo-sponsored fellowship program for CMU computer science students and faculty members who want to research fields such as machine learning, mobile technologies, human-computer interaction, personalization, novel interaction techniques and natural language processing.

The project will be directed at CMU by Tom Mitchell, Fredkin University professor of Computer Science and Machine Learning and head of the Machine Learning Department, and by Justine Cassell, the Charles M. Geschke director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has put mobile at the forefront of her efforts to turn around the struggling Internet giant. Those mobile aspirations will likely be reflected in more targeted, personalized advertising.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs technology conference this week in San Francisco, Mayer said she is bullish about the possibilities around contextual search. The vast amount of information Yahoo has on its users could help advertisers develop more highly targeted ads aimed at individual consumers.

"Yahoo has some of the best data on the internet," she said, in remarks quoted by CNN. "What consumers like to read, what they like to do."

Yahoo is also founding member of the non-profit Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which recently created a new working group to help foster the adoption of OpenFlow and software-defined networking (SDN) technologies in the wireless and mobile industries.

For more:
- see this Yahoo release and blog entry
- see this CNET article
- see this CNN article

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