Reinforcement learning for the real world with Dr. John Langford and Rafah Hosn

Episode 75, May 8, 2019- Dr. John Langford, a partner researcher in the Machine Learning group at Microsoft Research New York City, is a reinforcement learning expert who is working, in his own words, to solve machine learning. Rafah Hosn, also of MSR New York, is a principal program manager who’s working to take that work to the world. If that sounds like big thinking in the Big Apple, well, New York City has always been a “go big, or go home” kind of town, and MSR NYC is a “go big, or go home” kind of lab.

Today, Dr. Langford explains why online reinforcement learning is critical to solving machine learning and how moving from the current foundation of a Markov decision process toward a contextual bandit future might be part of the solution. Rafah Hosn talks about why it’s important, from a business perspective, to move RL agents out of simulated environments and into the open world, and gives us an under-the-hood look at the product side of MSR’s “research, incubate, transfer” process, focusing on real world reinforcement learning which, at Microsoft, is now called Azure Cognitive Services Personalizer.