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Distinguished Lecture - Alon Halevy: Subjective Databases

Event Details

Monday, October 14, 2019
4-5 p.m.

Online consumers are constantly seeking experiences, such as vacations, restaurant outings and exciting jobs in order to improve their well-being. However, e-commerce search engines only support searches for experiences to a very limited extent -- you can search on the objective attributes of a service (e.g., hotel price and location), but the experiential aspects are buried in online reviews. E-commerce sites make some effort to surface comments from reviews, but users can still not specify experiential aspects (e.g., romantic hotel in a quiet Mediterranean town) in their queries. There has been considerable work in the NLP community to recognize and extract subjective text, but that’s only the first step towards querying.

To address this challenge, we introduce OpineDB, a subjective database. OpineDB is based on a data model that carefully balances the richness and bottom-up nature of natural language and the top-down design principles of databases. OpineDB is able to answer queries that combine multiple subjective conditions and aggregate subjective data. Unlike a traditional database system, there may not be a 1-1 mapping between query terms and the database schema. In some cases, OpineDB needs to find the closest attribute (or combination of attributes) that answers a user query, and in some cases it may have to fall back to retrieval directly from the review text.

Joint work with Yuliang Li, Jinfeng Li, Vivian Li, Aaron Feng, Saran Mumick and Wang-Chiew Tan from Megagon Labs.

Bio: Alon Halevy joined Facebook AI in August, 2019. Until December, 2018, Alon was the CEO of Megagon Labs where his team focused on developing AI for well-being. Before that, Alon led the Structured Data Research Group at Google for 10 years. Previously,  he was a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, where he founded the database research group. Alon is a founder Nimble Technology, and of Transformatic, Inc., which was acquired by Google in 2005. He is the author of "The Infinite Emotions of Coffee" and co-author of "Principles of Data Integration". Alon is an ACM Fellow, received the Sloan Fellowship and the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Award. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1993 and his bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Coffee and cookies will be provided.