Visual Question Answering with Keras – Part 2: Making Computers Intelligent to answer from images

Making Computers Intelligent to answer from images

This is my second blog on Visual Question Answering, in the last blog, I have introduced to VQA, available datasets and some of the real-life applications of VQA. If you have not gone through then I would highly recommend you to go through it. Click here for more details about it.

In this blog post, I will walk through the implementation of VQA in Keras.

You can download the dataset from here: https://visualqa.org/index.html. All my experiments were performed with VQA v2 and I have used a very tiny subset of entire dataset i.e all samples for training and testing from the validation set.

Table of contents:

  1. Preprocessing Data
  2. Process overview for VQA
  3. Data Preprocessing – Images
  4. Data Preprocessing through the spaCy library- Questions
  5. Model Architecture
  6. Defining model parameters
  7. Evaluating the model
  8. Final Thought
  9. References

NOTE: The purpose of this blog is not to get the state-of-art performance on VQA. But the idea is to get familiar with the concept. All my experiments were performed with the validation set only.

Full code on my Github here.


1. Preprocessing Data:

If you have downloaded the dataset then the question and answers (called as annotations) are in JSON format. I have provided the code to extract the questions, annotations and other useful information in my Github repository. All extracted information is stored in .txt file format. After executing code the preprocessing directory will have the following structure.

All text files will be used for training.

 

2. Process overview for VQA:

As we have discussed in previous post visual question answering is broken down into 2 broad-spectrum i.e. vision and text.  I will represent the Neural Network approach to this problem using the Convolutional Neural Network (for image data) and Recurrent Neural Network(for text data). 

If you are not familiar with RNN (more precisely LSTM) then I would highly recommend you to go through Colah’s blog and Andrej Karpathy blog. The concepts discussed in this blogs are extensively used in my post.

The main idea is to get features for images from CNN and features for the text from RNN and finally combine them to generate the answer by passing them through some fully connected layers. The below figure shows the same idea.

 

I have used VGG-16 to extract the features from the image and LSTM layers to extract the features from questions and combining them to get the answer.

3. Data Preprocessing – Images:

Images are nothing but one of the input to our model. But as you already may know that before feeding images to the model we need to convert into the fixed-size vector.

So we need to convert every image into a fixed-size vector then it can be fed to the neural network. For this, we will use the VGG-16 pretrained model. VGG-16 model architecture is trained on millions on the Imagenet dataset to classify the image into one of 1000 classes. Here our task is not to classify the image but to get the bottleneck features from the second last layer.

Hence after removing the softmax layer, we get a 4096-dimensional vector representation (bottleneck features) for each image.

Image Source: https://www.cs.toronto.edu/~frossard/post/vgg16/

 

For the VQA dataset, the images are from the COCO dataset and each image has unique id associated with it. All these images are passed through the VGG-16 architecture and their vector representation is stored in the “.mat” file along with id. So in actual, we need not have to implement VGG-16 architecture instead we just do look up into file with the id of the image at hand and we will get a 4096-dimensional vector representation for the image.

4. Data Preprocessing through the spaCy library- Questions:

spaCy is a free, open-source library for advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Python. As we have converted images into a fixed 4096-dimensional vector we also need to convert questions into a fixed-size vector representation. For installing spaCy click here

You might know that for training word embeddings in Keras we have a layer called an Embedding layer which takes a word and embeds it into a higher dimensional vector representation. But by using the spaCy library we do not have to train the get the vector representation in higher dimensions.

 

This model is actually trained on billions of tokens of the large corpus. So we just need to call the vector method of spaCy class and will get vector representation for word.

After fitting, the vector method on tokens of each question will get the 300-dimensional fixed representation for each word.

5. Model Architecture:

In our problem the input consists of two parts i.e an image vector, and a question, we cannot use the Sequential API of the Keras library. For this reason, we use the Functional API which allows us to create multiple models and finally merge models.

The below picture shows the high-level architecture idea of submodules of neural network.

After concatenating the 2 different models the summary will look like the following.

The below plot helps us to visualize neural network architecture and to understand the two types of input:

 

6. Defining model parameters:

The hyperparameters that we are going to use for our model is defined as follows:

If you know what this parameter means then you can play around it and can get better results.

Time Taken: I used the GPU on https://colab.research.google.com and hence it took me approximately 2 hours to train the model for 5 epochs. However, if you train it on a PC without GPU, it could take more time depending on the configuration of your machine.

7. Evaluating the model:

Since I have used the very small dataset for performing these experiments I am not able to get very good accuracy. The below code will calculate the accuracy of the model.

 

Since I have trained a model multiple times with different parameters you will not get the same accuracy as me. If you want you can directly download mode.h5 file from my google drive.

 

8. Final Thoughts:

One of the interesting thing about VQA is that it a completely new field. So there is absolutely no end to what you can do to solve this problem. Below are some tips while replicating the code.

  1. Start with a very small subset of data: When you start implementing I suggest you start with a very small amount of data. Because once you are ready with the whole setup then you can scale it any time.
  2. Understand the code: Understanding code line by line is very much helpful to match your theoretical knowledge. So for that, I suggest you can take very few samples(maybe 20 or less) and run a small chunk (2 to 3 lines) of code to get the functionality of each part.
  3. Be patient: One of the mistakes that I did while starting with this project was to do everything at one go. If you get some error while replicating code spend 4 to 5 days harder on that. Even after that if you won’t able to solve, I would suggest you resume after a break of 1 or 2 days. 

VQA is the intersection of NLP and CV and hopefully, this project will give you a better understanding (more precisely practically) with most of the deep learning concepts.

If you want to improve the performance of the model below are few tips you can try:

  1. Use larger datasets
  2. Try Building more complex models like Attention, etc
  3. Try using other pre-trained word embeddings like Glove 
  4. Try using a different architecture 
  5. Do more hyperparameter tuning

The list is endless and it goes on.

In the blog, I have not provided the complete code you can get it from my Github repository.

9. References:

  1. https://blog.floydhub.com/asking-questions-to-images-with-deep-learning/
  2. https://tryolabs.com/blog/2018/03/01/introduction-to-visual-question-answering/
  3. https://github.com/sominwadhwa/vqamd_floyd

The Future of AI in Dental Technology

As we develop more advanced technology, we begin to learn that artificial intelligence can have more and more of an impact on our lives and industries that we have gotten used to being the same over the past decades. One of those industries is dentistry. In your lifetime, you’ve probably not seen many changes in technology, but a boom around artificial intelligence and technology has opened the door for AI in dental technologies.

How Can AI Help?

Though dentists take a lot of pride in their craft and career, most acknowledge that AI can do some things that they can’t do or would make their job easier if they didn’t have to do. AI can perform a number of both simple and advanced tasks. Let’s take a look at some areas that many in the dental industry feel that AI can be of assistance.

Repetitive, Menial Tasks

The most obvious area that AI can help out when it comes to dentistry is with repetitive and menial simple tasks. There are many administrative tasks in the dentistry industry that can be sped up and made more cost-effective with the use of AI. If we can train a computer to do some of these tasks, we may be able to free up more time for our dentists to focus on more important matters and improve their job performance as well. One primary use of AI is virtual consultations that offices like Philly Braces are offering. This saves patients time when they come in as the Doctor already knows what the next steps in their treatment will be.

Using AI to do some basic computer tasks is already being done on a small scale by some, but we have yet to see a very large scale implementation of this technology. We would expect that to happen soon, with how promising and cost-effective the technology has proven to be.

Reducing Misdiagnosis

One area that many think that AI can help a lot in is misdiagnosis. Though dentists do their best, there is still a nearly 20% misdiagnosis rate when reading x-rays in dentistry. We like to think that a human can read an x-ray better, but this may not be the case. AI technology can certainly be trained to read an x-ray and there have been some trials to suggest that they can do it better and identify key conditions that we often misread.

A world with AI diagnosis that is accurate and quicker will save time, money, and lead to better dental health among patients. It hasn’t yet come to fruition, but this seems to be the next major step for AI in dentistry.

Artificial Intelligence Assistants

Once it has been demonstrated that AI can perform a range of tasks that are useful to dentists, the next logical step is to combine those skills to make a fully-functional AI dental assistant. A machine like this has not yet been developed, but we can imagine that it would be an interface that could be spoken to similar to Alexa. The dentist would request vital information and other health history data from a patient or set of patients to assist in the treatment process. This would undoubtedly be a huge step forward and bring a lot of computing power into the average dentist office.

Conclusion

It’s clear that AI has a bright future in the dental industry and has already shown some of the essential skills that it can help with in order to provide more comprehensive and accurate care to dental patients. Some offices like Westwood Orthodontics already use AI in the form of a virtual consult to diagnose issues and provide treatment options before patients actually step foot in the office. Though not nearly all applications that AI can provide have been explored, we are well on our way to discovering the vast benefits of artificial intelligence for both patients and practices in the dental healthcare industry.

Accelerate your AI Skills Today: A Million Dollar Job!

The skyrocketing salaries ($1m per year) of AI engineers is not a hype. It is the fact of current corporate world, where you will witness a shift that is inevitable.

We’ve already set our feet at the edge of the technological revolution. A revolution that is at the verge of altering the way we live and work. As the fact suggests, humanity has fundamentally developed human production in three revolutions, and we’re now entering the fourth revolution. In its scope, the fourth revolution projects a transformation that is unlike anything we humans have ever experienced.

  • The first revolution had the world transformed from rural to urban
  • the emergence of mass production in the second revolution
  • third introduced the digital revolution
  • The fourth industrial revolution is anxious to integrate technologies into our lives.

And all thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). An advanced technology that surrounds us, from virtual assistants to software that translates to self-driving cars.

The rise of AI at an exponential rate has disrupted almost every industry. So much so that AI is being rated as one-million-dollar profession.

Did this grab your attention? It did?

Now, what if we were to tell you that the salary compensation for AI experts has grown dramatically. AI and machine learning are fields that have a mountain of demand in the tech industry today but has sparse supply.

AI field is growing at a quicker pace and salaries are skyrocketing! Read it for yourself to know what AI experts, AI researchers and any other AI talent are commanding today.

  • A top-class AI research laboratory, OpenAI says that techies in the AI field are projected to earn a salary compensation ranging between $300 to $500k for fresh graduates. However, expert professionals could earn anywhere up to $1m.
  • Whopping salary package of above 100 million yen that amounts to $1m is being offered to AI geniuses by a Japanese firm, Start Today. A firm that operates a fashion shopping website named Zozotown.

Does this leave you with a question – Is this a right opportunity for you to jump in the field and make hay while the sun is shining? 

And the answer to this question is – yes, it is the right opportunity for any developer seeking a role in the AI industry. It can be your chance to bridge the skill shortage in the AI field either by upskilling or reskilling yourself in the field of AI.

There are a wide varieties of roles available for an AI enthusiast like you. And certain areas are like AI Engineers and AI Researchers are high in demand, as there are not many professionals who have robust AI knowledge.

According to a job report, “The Future of Jobs 2018,” a prediction was made suggesting that machines and algorithms will create around 133 million new job roles by 2022.

AI and machine learning will dominate the tech world. The World Economic Forum says that several sectors have started embracing AI and machine learning to tackle challenges in certain fields such as advertising, supply chain, manufacturing, smart cities, drones, and cybersecurity.

Unraveling the AI realm

From chatbots to financial planners, AI is impacting the way businesses function on a day-today basis. AI makes the work simpler, as it provides variables, which makes the work more streamlined.

Alright! You know that

  • the demand for AI professionals is rising exponentially and that there is just a trickle of supply
  • the AI professionals are demanding skyrocketing salaries

However, beyond that how much more do you know about AI?

Considering the fact that our lives have already been touched by AI (think Alexa, and Siri), it is just a matter of time when AI will become an indispensable part of our lives.

As Gartner predicts that 2020 will be an important year for business growth in AI. Thus, it is possible to witness significant sparks for employment growth. Though AI predicts to diminish 1.8 million jobs, it is also said to replace it with 2.3 million jobs that will be created. As we look forward to stepping into 2020, AI-related job roles are set to make positive progress of achieving 2 million net-new employments by 2025.

With AI promising to score fat paychecks that would reach millions, AI experts are struggling to find new ways to pick up nouveau skills. However, one of the biggest impacts that affect the job market today is the scarcity of talent in this field.

The best way to stay relevant and employable in AI is probably by “reskilling,” and “upskilling.” And  AI certifications is considered ideal for those in the current workforce.

Looking to upskill yourself – here’s how you can become an AI engineer today.

Top three ways to enhance your artificial intelligence career:

  1. Acquire skills in Statistics and Machine Learning: If you’re getting into the field of machine learning, it is crucial that you have in-depth knowledge of statistics. Statistics is considered a prerequisite to the ML field. Both the fields are tightly related. Machine learning models are created to make accurate predictions while statistical models do the job of interpreting the relationship between variables. Many ML techniques heavily rely on the theory obtained through statistics. Thus, having extensive knowledge in statistics help initiate the first step towards an AI career.
  2. Online certification programs in AI skills: Opting for AI certifications will boost your credibility amongst potential employers. Certifications will also enhance your earning potential and increase your marketability. If you’re looking for a change and to be a part of something impactful; join the AI bandwagon. The IT industry is growing at breakneck speed; it is now that businesses are realizing how important it is to hire professionals with certain skillsets. Specifically, those who are certified in AI are becoming sought after in the job market.
  3. Hands-on experience: There’s a vast difference in theory and practical knowledge. One needs to familiarize themselves with the latest tools and technologies used by the industry. This is possible only if the individual is willing to work on projects and build things from scratch.

Despite all the promises, AI does prove to be a threat to job holders, if they don’t upskill or reskill themselves. The upcoming AI revolution will definitely disrupt the way we work, however, it will leave room for humans to perform more creative jobs in the future corporate world.

So a word of advice is to be prepared and stay future ready.

Visual Question Answering with Keras – Part 1

This is Part I of II of the Article Series Visual Question Answering with Keras

Making Computers Intelligent to answer from images

If we look closer in the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Deep Learning has gained more popularity in the recent years and has achieved the human-level performance in the tasks such as Speech Recognition, Image Classification, Object Detection, Machine Translation and so on. However, as humans, not only we but also a five-year child can normally perform these tasks without much inconvenience. But the development of such systems with these capabilities has always considered an ambitious goal for the researchers as well as for developers.

In this series of blog posts, I will cover an introduction to something called VQA (Visual Question Answering), its available datasets, the Neural Network approach for VQA and its implementation in Keras and the applications of this challenging problem in real life. 

Table of Contents:

1 Introduction

2 What is exactly Visual Question Answering?

3 Prerequisites

4 Datasets available for VQA

4.1 DAQUAR Dataset

4.2 CLEVR Dataset

4.3 FigureQA Dataset

4.4 VQA Dataset

5 Real-life applications of VQA

6 Conclusion

 

  1. Introduction:

Let’s say you are given a below picture along with one question. Can you answer it?

I expect confidently you all say it is the Kitchen without much inconvenience which is also the right answer. Even a five-year child who just started to learn things might answer this question correctly.

Alright, but can you write a computer program for such type of task that takes image and question about the image as an input and gives us answer as output?

Before the development of the Deep Neural Network, this problem was considered as one of the difficult, inconceivable and challenging problem for the AI researcher’s community. However, due to the recent advancement of Deep Learning the systems are capable of answering these questions with the promising result if we have a required dataset.

Now I hope you have got at least some intuition of a problem that we are going to discuss in this series of blog posts. Let’s try to formalize the problem in the below section.

  1. What is exactly Visual Question Answering?:

We can define, “Visual Question Answering(VQA) is a system that takes an image and natural language question about the image as an input and generates natural language answer as an output.”

VQA is a research area that requires an understanding of vision(Computer Vision)  as well as text(NLP). The main beauty of VQA is that the reasoning part is performed in the context of the image. So if we have an image with the corresponding question then the system must able to understand the image well in order to generate an appropriate answer. For example, if the question is the number of persons then the system must able to detect faces of the persons. To answer the color of the horse the system need to detect the objects in the image. Many of these common problems such as face detection, object detection, binary object classification(yes or no), etc. have been solved in the field of Computer Vision with good results.

To summarize a good VQA system must be able to address the typical problems of CV as well as NLP.

To get a better feel of VQA you can try online VQA demo by CloudCV. You just go to this link and try uploading the picture you want and ask the related question to the picture, the system will generate the answer to it.

 

  1. Prerequisites:

In the next post, I will walk you through the code for this problem using Keras. So I assume that you are familiar with:

  1. Fundamental concepts of Machine Learning
  2. Multi-Layered Perceptron
  3. Convolutional Neural Network
  4. Recurrent Neural Network (especially LSTM)
  5. Gradient Descent and Backpropagation
  6. Transfer Learning
  7. Hyperparameter Optimization
  8. Python and Keras syntax
  1. Datasets available for VQA:

As you know problems related to the CV or NLP the availability of the dataset is the key to solve the problem. The complex problems like VQA, the dataset must cover all possibilities of questions answers in real-world scenarios. In this section, I will cover some of the datasets available for VQA.

4.1 DAQUAR Dataset:

The DAQUAR dataset is the first dataset for VQA that contains only indoor scenes. It shows the accuracy of 50.2% on the human baseline. It contains images from the NYU_Depth dataset.

Example of DAQUAR dataset

Example of DAQUAR dataset

The main disadvantage of DAQUAR is the size of the dataset is very small to capture all possible indoor scenes.

4.2 CLEVR Dataset:

The CLEVR Dataset from Stanford contains the questions about the object of a different type, colors, shapes, sizes, and material.

It has

  • A training set of 70,000 images and 699,989 questions
  • A validation set of 15,000 images and 149,991 questions
  • A test set of 15,000 images and 14,988 questions

Image Source: https://cs.stanford.edu/people/jcjohns/clevr/?source=post_page

 

4.3 FigureQA Dataset:

FigureQA Dataset contains questions about the bar graphs, line plots, and pie charts. It has 1,327,368 questions for 100,000 images in the training set.

4.4 VQA Dataset:

As comapred to all datasets that we have seen so far VQA dataset is relatively larger. The VQA dataset contains open ended as well as multiple choice questions. VQA v2 dataset contains:

  • 82,783 training images from COCO (common objects in context) dataset
  • 40, 504 validation images and 81,434 validation images
  • 443,757 question-answer pairs for training images
  • 214,354 question-answer pairs for validation images.

As you might expect this dataset is very huge and contains 12.6 GB of training images only. I have used this dataset in the next post but a very small subset of it.

This dataset also contains abstract cartoon images. Each image has 3 questions and each question has 10 multiple choice answers.

  1. Real-life applications of VQA:

There are many applications of VQA. One of the famous applications is to help visually impaired people and blind peoples. In 2016, Microsoft has released the “Seeing AI” app for visually impaired people to describe the surrounding environment around them. You can watch this video for the prototype of the Seeing AI app.

Another application could be on social media or e-commerce sites. VQA can be also used for educational purposes.

  1. Conclusion:

I hope this explanation will give you a good idea of Visual Question Answering. In the next blog post, I will walk you through the code in Keras.

If you like my explanations, do provide some feedback, comments, etc. and stay tuned for the next post.

A Bird’s Eye View: How Machine Learning Can Help You Charge Your E-Scooters

Bird scooters in Columbus, Ohio

Bird scooters in Columbus, Ohio

Ever since I started using bike-sharing to get around in Seattle, I have become fascinated with geolocation data and the transportation sharing economy. When I saw this project leveraging the mobility data RESTful API from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, I was eager to dive in and get my hands dirty building a data product utilizing a company’s mobility data API.

Unfortunately, the major bike and scooter providers (Bird, JUMP, Lime) don’t have publicly accessible APIs. However, some folks have seemingly been able to reverse-engineer the Bird API used to populate the maps in their Android and iOS applications.

One interesting feature of this data is the nest_id, which indicates if the Bird scooter is in a “nest” — a centralized drop-off spot for charged Birds to be released back into circulation.

I set out to ask the following questions:

  1. Can real-time predictions be made to determine if a scooter is currently in a nest?
  2. For non-nest scooters, can new nest location recommendations be generated from geospatial clustering?

To answer these questions, I built a full-stack machine learning web application, NestGenerator, which provides an automated recommendation engine for new nest locations. This application can help power Bird’s internal nest location generation that runs within their Android and iOS applications. NestGenerator also provides real-time strategic insight for Bird chargers who are enticed to optimize their scooter collection and drop-off route based on proximity to scooters and nest locations in their area.

Bird

The electric scooter market has seen substantial growth with Bird’s recent billion dollar valuation  and their $300 million Series C round in the summer of 2018. Bird offers electric scooters that top out at 15 mph, cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of use. Bird scooters are in over 100 cities globally and they announced in late 2018 that they eclipsed 10 million scooter rides since their launch in 2017.

Bird scooters in Tel Aviv, Israel

Bird scooters in Tel Aviv, Israel

With all of these scooters populating cities, there’s much-needed demand for people to charge them. Since they are electric, someone needs to charge them! A charger can earn additional income for charging the scooters at their home and releasing them back into circulation at nest locations. The base price for charging each Bird is $5.00. It goes up from there when the Birds are harder to capture.

Data Collection and Machine Learning Pipeline

The full data pipeline for building “NestGenerator”

Data

From the details here, I was able to write a Python script that returned a list of Bird scooters within a specified area, their geolocation, unique ID, battery level and a nest ID.

I collected scooter data from four cities (Atlanta, Austin, Santa Monica, and Washington D.C.) across varying times of day over the course of four weeks. Collecting data from different cities was critical to the goal of training a machine learning model that would generalize well across cities.

Once equipped with the scooter’s latitude and longitude coordinates, I was able to leverage additional APIs and municipal data sources to get granular geolocation data to create an original scooter attribute and city feature dataset.

Data Sources:

  • Walk Score API: returns a walk score, transit score and bike score for any location.
  • Google Elevation API: returns elevation data for all locations on the surface of the earth.
  • Google Places API: returns information about places. Places are defined within this API as establishments, geographic locations, or prominent points of interest.
  • Google Reverse Geocoding API: reverse geocoding is the process of converting geographic coordinates into a human-readable address.
  • Weather Company Data: returns the current weather conditions for a geolocation.
  • LocationIQ: Nearby Points of Interest (PoI) API returns specified PoIs or places around a given coordinate.
  • OSMnx: Python package that lets you download spatial geometries and model, project, visualize, and analyze street networks from OpenStreetMap’s APIs.

Feature Engineering

After extensive API wrangling, which included a four-week prolonged data collection phase, I was finally able to put together a diverse feature set to train machine learning models. I engineered 38 features to classify if a scooter is currently in a nest.

Full Feature Set

Full Feature Set

The features boiled down into four categories:

  • Amenity-based: parks within a given radius, gas stations within a given radius, walk score, bike score
  • City Network Structure: intersection count, average circuity, street length average, average streets per node, elevation level
  • Distance-based: proximity to closest highway, primary road, secondary road, residential road
  • Scooter-specific attributes: battery level, proximity to closest scooter, high battery level (> 90%) scooters within a given radius, total scooters within a given radius

 

Log-Scale Transformation

For each feature, I plotted the distribution to explore the data for feature engineering opportunities. For features with a right-skewed distribution, where the mean is typically greater than the median, I applied these log transformations to normalize the distribution and reduce the variability of outlier observations. This approach was used to generate a log feature for proximity to closest scooter, closest highway, primary road, secondary road, and residential road.

An example of a log transformation

Statistical Analysis: A Systematic Approach

Next, I wanted to ensure that the features I included in my model displayed significant differences when broken up by nest classification. My thinking was that any features that did not significantly differ when stratified by nest classification would not have a meaningful predictive impact on whether a scooter was in a nest or not.

Distributions of a feature stratified by their nest classification can be tested for statistically significant differences. I used an unpaired samples t-test with a 0.01% significance level to compute a p-value and confidence interval to determine if there was a statistically significant difference in means for a feature stratified by nest classification. I rejected the null hypothesis if a p-value was smaller than the 0.01% threshold and if the 99.9% confidence interval did not straddle zero. By rejecting the null-hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis, it’s deemed there is a significant difference in means of a feature by nest classification.

Battery Level Distribution Stratified by Nest Classification to run a t-test

Battery Level Distribution Stratified by Nest Classification to run a t-test

Log of Closest Scooter Distribution Stratified by Nest Classification to run a t-test

Throwing Away Features

Using the approach above, I removed ten features that did not display statistically significant results.

Statistically Insignificant Features Removed Before Model Development

Model Development

I trained two models, a random forest classifier and an extreme gradient boosting classifier since tree-based models can handle skewed data, capture important feature interactions, and provide a feature importance calculation. I trained the models on 70% of the data collected for all four cities and reserved the remaining 30% for testing.

After hyper-parameter tuning the models for performance on cross-validation data it was time to run the models on the 30% of test data set aside from the initial data collection.

I also collected additional test data from other cities (Columbus, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego) not involved in training the models. I took this step to ensure the selection of a machine learning model that would generalize well across cities. The performance of each model on the additional test data determined which model would be integrated into the application development.

Performance on Additional Cities Test Data

The Random Forest Classifier displayed superior performance across the board

The Random Forest Classifier displayed superior performance across the board

I opted to move forward with the random forest model because of its superior performance on AUC score and accuracy metrics on the additional cities test data. AUC is the Area under the ROC Curve, and it provides an aggregate measure of model performance across all possible classification thresholds.

AUC Score on Test Data for each Model

AUC Score on Test Data for each Model

Feature Importance

Battery level dominated as the most important feature. Additional important model features were proximity to high level battery scooters, proximity to closest scooter, and average distance to high level battery scooters.

Feature Importance for the Random Forest Classifier

Feature Importance for the Random Forest Classifier

The Trade-off Space

Once I had a working machine learning model for nest classification, I started to build out the application using the Flask web framework written in Python. After spending a few days of writing code for the application and incorporating the trained random forest model, I had enough to test out the basic functionality. I could finally run the application locally to call the Bird API and classify scooter’s into nests in real-time! There was one huge problem, though. It took more than seven minutes to generate the predictions and populate in the application. That just wasn’t going to cut it.

The question remained: will this model deliver in a production grade environment with the goal of making real-time classifications? This is a key trade-off in production grade machine learning applications where on one end of the spectrum we’re optimizing for model performance and on the other end we’re optimizing for low latency application performance.

As I continued to test out the application’s performance, I still faced the challenge of relying on so many APIs for real-time feature generation. Due to rate-limiting constraints and daily request limits across so many external APIs, the current machine learning classifier was not feasible to incorporate into the final application.

Run-Time Compliant Application Model

After going back to the drawing board, I trained a random forest model that relied primarily on scooter-specific features which were generated directly from the Bird API.

Through a process called vectorization, I was able to transform the geolocation distance calculations utilizing NumPy arrays which enabled batch operations on the data without writing any “for” loops. The distance calculations were applied simultaneously on the entire array of geolocations instead of looping through each individual element. The vectorization implementation optimized real-time feature engineering for distance related calculations which improved the application response time by a factor of ten.

Feature Importance for the Run-time Compliant Random Forest Classifier

Feature Importance for the Run-time Compliant Random Forest Classifier

This random forest model generalized well on test-data with an AUC score of 0.95 and an accuracy rate of 91%. The model retained its prediction accuracy compared to the former feature-rich model, but it gained 60x in application performance. This was a necessary trade-off for building a functional application with real-time prediction capabilities.

Geospatial Clustering

Now that I finally had a working machine learning model for classifying nests in a production grade environment, I could generate new nest locations for the non-nest scooters. The goal was to generate geospatial clusters based on the number of non-nest scooters in a given location.

The k-means algorithm is likely the most common clustering algorithm. However, k-means is not an optimal solution for widespread geolocation data because it minimizes variance, not geodetic distance. This can create suboptimal clustering from distortion in distance calculations at latitudes far from the equator. With this in mind, I initially set out to use the DBSCAN algorithm which clusters spatial data based on two parameters: a minimum cluster size and a physical distance from each point. There were a few issues that prevented me from moving forward with the DBSCAN algorithm.

  1. The DBSCAN algorithm does not allow for specifying the number of clusters, which was problematic as the goal was to generate a number of clusters as a function of non-nest scooters.
  2. I was unable to hone in on an optimal physical distance parameter that would dynamically change based on the Bird API data. This led to suboptimal nest locations due to a distortion in how the physical distance point was used in clustering. For example, Santa Monica, where there are ~15,000 scooters, has a higher concentration of scooters in a given area whereas Brookline, MA has a sparser set of scooter locations.

An example of how sparse scooter locations vs. highly concentrated scooter locations for a given Bird API call can create cluster distortion based on a static physical distance parameter in the DBSCAN algorithm. Left:Bird scooters in Brookline, MA. Right:Bird scooters in Santa Monica, CA.

An example of how sparse scooter locations vs. highly concentrated scooter locations for a given Bird API call can create cluster distortion based on a static physical distance parameter in the DBSCAN algorithm. Left:Bird scooters in Brookline, MA. Right:Bird scooters in Santa Monica, CA.

Given the granularity of geolocation scooter data I was working with, geospatial distortion was not an issue and the k-means algorithm would work well for generating clusters. Additionally, the k-means algorithm parameters allowed for dynamically customizing the number of clusters based on the number of non-nest scooters in a given location.

Once clusters were formed with the k-means algorithm, I derived a centroid from all of the observations within a given cluster. In this case, the centroids are the mean latitude and mean longitude for the scooters within a given cluster. The centroids coordinates are then projected as the new nest recommendations.

NestGenerator showcasing non-nest scooters and new nest recommendations utilizing the K-Means algorithm

NestGenerator showcasing non-nest scooters and new nest recommendations utilizing the K-Means algorithm.

NestGenerator Application

After wrapping up the machine learning components, I shifted to building out the remaining functionality of the application. The final iteration of the application is deployed to Heroku’s cloud platform.

In the NestGenerator app, a user specifies a location of their choosing. This will then call the Bird API for scooters within that given location and generate all of the model features for predicting nest classification using the trained random forest model. This forms the foundation for map filtering based on nest classification. In the app, a user has the ability to filter the map based on nest classification.

Drop-Down Map View filtering based on Nest Classification

Drop-Down Map View filtering based on Nest Classification

Nearest Generated Nest

To see the generated nest recommendations, a user selects the “Current Non-Nest Scooters & Predicted Nest Locations” filter which will then populate the application with these nest locations. Based on the user’s specified search location, a table is provided with the proximity of the five closest nests and an address of the Nest location to help inform a Bird charger in their decision-making.

NestGenerator web-layout with nest addresses and proximity to nearest generated nests

NestGenerator web-layout with nest addresses and proximity to nearest generated nests

Conclusion

By accurately predicting nest classification and clustering non-nest scooters, NestGenerator provides an automated recommendation engine for new nest locations. For Bird, this application can help power their nest location generation that runs within their Android and iOS applications. NestGenerator also provides real-time strategic insight for Bird chargers who are enticed to optimize their scooter collection and drop-off route based on scooters and nest locations in their area.

Code

The code for this project can be found on my GitHub

Comments or Questions? Please email me an E-Mail!

 

Introduction to ROC Curve

The abbreviation ROC stands for Receiver Operating Characteristic. Its main purpose is to illustrate the diagnostic ability of classifier as the discrimination threshold is varied. It was developed during World War II when Radar operators had to decide if the blip on the screen is an enemy target, a friendly ship or just a noise.  For these purposes they measured the ability of a radar receiver operator to make these important distinctions, which was called the Receiver Operating Characteristic.

Later it was found useful in interpreting medical test results and then in Machine learning classification problems. In order to get an introduction to binary classification and terms like ‘precision’ and ‘recall’ one can look into my earlier blog  here.

True positive rate and false positive rate

Let’s imagine a situation where a fire alarm is installed in a kitchen. The alarm is supposed to emit a sound in case fire smoke is detected in the room. Unfortunately, there is a lot of cooking done in the kitchen and the alarm may trigger the sound too often. Thus, instead of serving a purpose the alarm becomes a nuisance due to a large number of false alarms. In statistical terms these types of errors are called type 1 errors, or false positives.

One way to deal with this problem is to simply decrease sensitivity of the device. We do this by increasing the trigger threshold at the alarm setting. But then, not every alarm should have the same threshold setting. Consider the same type of device but kept in a bedroom. With high threshold, the device might miss smoke from a real short-circuit in the wires which poses a real danger of fire. This kind of failure is called Type 2 error or a false negative. Although the two devices are the same, different types of threshold settings are optimal for different circumstances.

To specify this more formally, let us describe the performance of a binary classifier at a particular threshold by the following parameters:

 

These parameters take different values at different thresholds. Hence, they define the performance of the classifier at particular threshold. But we want to examine in overall how good a classifier is. Fortunately, there is a way to do that. We plot the True Positive Rate (TPR) and False Positive rate (FPR) at different thresholds and this plot is called ROC curve.

Let’s try to understand this with an example.

A case with a distinct population distribution

Let’s suppose there is a disease which can be identified with deficiency of some parameter (maybe a certain vitamin). The distribution of population with this disease has a mean vitamin concentration sharply distinct from the mean of a healthy population, as shown below.

This is result of dummy data simulating population of 2000 people,the link to the code is given  in the end of this blog.  As the two populations are distinctly separated (there is no  overlap between the two distributions), we can expect that a classifier would have an easy job distinquishing healthy from sick people. We can run a logistic regression classifier with a threshold of .5 and be 100% succesful in detecting the decease.

The confusion matrix may look something like this.

In this ideal case with a threshold  of  .5 we do not make a single wrong classification. The True positive rate and False positive rate are 1 and 0, respectively. But we can shift the threshold. In that case, we will  get different confusion matrices. First we plot threshold vs. TPR.

We see for most values of threshold the TPR is close to 1 which again proves data is easy to classify and the classifier is returning high probabilities  for the most of positives .

Similarly Let’s plot threshold vs. FPR.

For most of the data points FPR is close to zero. This is also good. Now its time to plot the ROC curve using these results (TPR vs FPR).

Let’s try to interpret  the results,  all the points lie on line x=0 and y=1, it means for all the points FPR is zero or TPR is one, making  the curve a square. which means the classifier does perfectly well.

Case with overlapping  population distribution

The above example was about a perfect classifer. However, life is often not so easy. Now let us consider another more realistic situation in which the parameter distribution of the population is not as distinct as in the previous case. Rather, the mean of the parameter with healthy and not healthy datapoints are close and the distributions overlap, as shown in the next figure.

If we set the threshold to 0.5, the confusion matrix may look like this.

Now, any new choice of threshold location will affect both false positives and false negatives. In fact, there is a trade-off. If we shift the threshold with the goal to reduce false negatives, false positives will increase. If we move the threshold to the other direction and reduce false positive, false negatives will increase.

The plots (TPR vs Threshold) , (FPR vs Threshold) are shown below

If we plot the ROC curve from these results, it looks like this:

From the curve we see the classifier does not perform as well as the earlier one.

What else can be infered from this curve? We first need to understand what the diagonal in this plot represent. The diagonal represents ‘Line of no discrimination’, which we obtain if we randomly guess. This is the ROC curve for the worst possible classifier. Therefore, by comparing the obtained ROC curve with the diagonal, we see how much better our classifer is from random guessing.

The further away ROC curve from the diagonal is (the closest it is to the top left corner) , better the classifier is.

Area Under the curve

The overall performance of the classifier is given by the area under the ROC curve and is usually denoted as AUC. Since TPR and FPR lie within the range of 0 to 1, the AUC also assumes values between 0 and 1. The higher the value of AUC, the better is the overall performance of the classifier.

Let’s see this for the two different distributions which we saw earlier.

As we know the classifier had worked perfectly in the first case with points at (0,1) the area under the curve is 1 which is perfect. In the latter case the classifier was not able to perform as good, the ROC curve is between the diagonal and left hand corner. The AUC as we can see is less than 1.

Some other general characteristics

There are still few points that needs to be discussed on a General ROC curve

  • The ROC curve does not provide information about the actual values of thresholds used for the classifier.
  • Performance of different classifiers can be compared using the AUC of different Classifier. The larger the AUC, the better the classifier.
  • The vertical distance of the ROC curve from the no discrimination line gives a measure of ‘INFORMEDNESS’. This is known as Youden’s J satistic. This statistics can take values between 0 and 1.

Youden’s  J statistic is defined for every point on the ROC curve . The point at which Youden’s  J satistics reaches its maximum for a given ROC curve can be used to guide the selection of the threshold to be used for that classifier.

I hope this post does the job of providing an understanding of ROC curves  and AUC. The  Python program for simulating the example given earlier can be found here .

Please feel free to adjust the mean of the distributions and see the changes in the plot.

How is automation changing data science and machine learning?

We have come a long way since the introduction of data science and machine learning. The recent study has found that the volume of business data doubles in less than 14 months. Today, the collection of data is no longer a problem, but the filtration, analysis, and maintenance of relevant information is a bigger issue.

We need to hire data science professionals, and they demand over $100k annually. Paying that sort of money for a professional is not feasible for every single organization, especially small and middle-sized companies. Google recently announced that it is going to make machine learning technology possible for every business.

The access to machine learning technology is now possible, even for small businesses due to automation. Google, Microsoft, and other companies have come up with automated machine learning tools that enable small businesses to use machine learning technology to enhance their business performance and profit.

Image Source: Google Cloud

With that said, the world still needs a lot of machine learning professionals. Many machine learning professionals prefer Python for machine learning due to its features and a wide range of libraries.

According to the Gartner report, around 40% of data science tasks will be automated by 2020. The data science tools can automate some parts of data science processes, but it is not complete automation.

With that said, it has been helping a lot to accelerate the tasks. We still need data science professionals to deal with real-world problems. The algorithms are not yet able to handle messy data. The significant chunk of data science professionals often prefers performing with data science with Python for sophisticated tasks.

Automation in Data Science

Let me show you the figure right at the beginning before moving forward.

Image Source: Wikipedia

If I had to use only one word to describe the entire data science process, I would use the word “headache.” According to the recent report, the median salary of data scientists easily surpasses $100k annually. The pay will be higher in the time to come.

One needs to pay a lot of money and invest a lot of time to get insights from the collected data. The data scientists need to spend almost 50-60% of their time in data processing and the rest of their time in modeling and deployment.

The cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft Azure, and so on make the job more comfortable, but there is still a lot of work to maintain and extract useful insights from the collected data.

The data science process has lots of inefficiencies. At first, they need to spend over 50% of their total time on processing messy real-world data. After that, there could be a need to customize models, according to specific problems.

The significant contribution of automation is making a significant portion of data processing parts automated. Secondly, the automated platforms can make tracking of various models easier from multiple parameters. The time needed to launch the algorithm is minimal.

One example of an extensive tool to handle a data science project is Alteryx. IT has come up with powerful automated solutions that can drastically reduce the data processing and model development time for smoothening the entire data science workflow. The data science platform, Alteryx, is so amazing that its share price doubled in a span of little more than a year.

Some other great tools that can help you in data science automation are Rapidminer, H20.ai, KNIME, and so on. However, the lack of skilled data scientists can create a problem despite these tools. It is where the role of automated machine learning pops in.

How is Machine Learning Transformed with the entrance of Automation?

The traditional machine learning process was too complicated. One requires to have a lot of expensive machine learning professionals working for months to come up with models to process machine learning tasks.

Image Source: Medium

To make traditional machine learning work, one needs to gather data, standardize data, process features, create and train the machine learning model from problems, validate the models, and deploy the models at last.

You must have heard of how machine learning is only for corporations in the past. But, that has drastically changed in recent time, and it is all due to automation. Keep in mind that the above machine learning model is a simple one. There is a lot of extra works for complicated models. Even for the simple ones, you need to spend a lot of time and money, which makes it impossible for small and medium companies.

The automation in machine learning is all about automating the entire process to make machine learning easier. The only thing you need to do is feed data to the system (not a massive volume of data). You do not need even to cross the three-figure number of images to continue with automated machine learning platforms.

Microsoft has its automl platform along with Google. Other automl platforms can do the trick for you. Using those platforms do not cost you an arm and a leg. If you check out the price, you will be surprised.

There is no need for you to create or deploy models or even test the models. The algorithm will do the job for you. It takes examples and models of historical models to process the data and use a machine learning algorithm.

Even non-statistician can implement machine learning technology with limited data, thanks to automation in machine learning. You can make use of predictive analytics and can get easy solutions for simple prediction problems without scratching your head. Numerous libraries can assist you in the automated generation of machine learning pipelines.

How are the jobs of data scientists simplified by the introduction of automation in machine learning and data science?

It is true that the introduction of automation has drastically reduced the time for completing the tasks for data scientists. They no longer have to spend their valuable time in time-consuming, monotonous works that are necessary but do not provide a lot of value.

However, the need for skilled data scientists still exist, and it will always be there in the time to come. There are challenging works for data scientists that we cannot replace with machines, such as listening to clients, figuring out the root cause of business issues, development and selection of the right solution for the specific business problem.

Just like in other types of jobs, the advancement of automation technologies will modify the tasks that data scientists need to perform. They will be able to allocate more time on things that matter rather than monotonous tasks.

Final Verdict

The automation of machine learning and data science are in the beginning stage. However, they are already making a massive impact on the business world. The huge corporations are investing in Big Data and Machine Learning technologies. We can expect a considerable improvement in these technologies shortly.

Sooner, the competitive advantage of a business will depend on how well they can use the technologies, instead of access to machine learning or Big Data technologies.  I hope this article was valuable to you. If you want to add something or express your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment. I will gladly read and reply to your comment.

Sentiment Analysis of IMDB reviews

Sentiment Analysis of IMDB reviews

This article shows you how to build a Neural Network from scratch(no libraries) for the purpose of detecting whether a movie review on IMDB is negative or positive.

Outline:

  • Curating a dataset and developing a "Predictive Theory"

  • Transforming Text to Numbers Creating the Input/Output Data

  • Building our Neural Network

  • Making Learning Faster by Reducing "Neural Noise"

  • Reducing Noise by strategically reducing the vocabulary

Curating the Dataset

In [3]:
def pretty_print_review_and_label(i):
    print(labels[i] + "\t:\t" + reviews[i][:80] + "...")

g = open('reviews.txt','r') # features of our dataset
reviews = list(map(lambda x:x[:-1],g.readlines()))
g.close()

g = open('labels.txt','r') # labels
labels = list(map(lambda x:x[:-1].upper(),g.readlines()))
g.close()

Note: The data in reviews.txt we're contains only lower case characters. That's so we treat different variations of the same word, like The, the, and THE, all the same way.

It's always a good idea to get check out your dataset before you proceed.

In [2]:
len(reviews) #No. of reviews
Out[2]:
25000
In [3]:
reviews[0] #first review
Out[3]:
'bromwell high is a cartoon comedy . it ran at the same time as some other programs about school life  such as  teachers  . my   years in the teaching profession lead me to believe that bromwell high  s satire is much closer to reality than is  teachers  . the scramble to survive financially  the insightful students who can see right through their pathetic teachers  pomp  the pettiness of the whole situation  all remind me of the schools i knew and their students . when i saw the episode in which a student repeatedly tried to burn down the school  i immediately recalled . . . . . . . . . at . . . . . . . . . . high . a classic line inspector i  m here to sack one of your teachers . student welcome to bromwell high . i expect that many adults of my age think that bromwell high is far fetched . what a pity that it isn  t   '
In [4]:
labels[0] #first label
Out[4]:
'POSITIVE'

Developing a Predictive Theory

Analysing how you would go about predicting whether its a positive or a negative review.

In [5]:
print("labels.txt \t : \t reviews.txt\n")
pretty_print_review_and_label(2137)
pretty_print_review_and_label(12816)
pretty_print_review_and_label(6267)
pretty_print_review_and_label(21934)
pretty_print_review_and_label(5297)
pretty_print_review_and_label(4998)
labels.txt 	 : 	 reviews.txt

NEGATIVE	:	this movie is terrible but it has some good effects .  ...
POSITIVE	:	adrian pasdar is excellent is this film . he makes a fascinating woman .  ...
NEGATIVE	:	comment this movie is impossible . is terrible  very improbable  bad interpretat...
POSITIVE	:	excellent episode movie ala pulp fiction .  days   suicides . it doesnt get more...
NEGATIVE	:	if you haven  t seen this  it  s terrible . it is pure trash . i saw this about ...
POSITIVE	:	this schiffer guy is a real genius  the movie is of excellent quality and both e...
In [41]:
from collections import Counter
import numpy as np

We'll create three Counter objects, one for words from postive reviews, one for words from negative reviews, and one for all the words.

In [56]:
# Create three Counter objects to store positive, negative and total counts
positive_counts = Counter()
negative_counts = Counter()
total_counts = Counter()

Examine all the reviews. For each word in a positive review, increase the count for that word in both your positive counter and the total words counter; likewise, for each word in a negative review, increase the count for that word in both your negative counter and the total words counter. You should use split(' ') to divide a piece of text (such as a review) into individual words.

In [57]:
# Loop over all the words in all the reviews and increment the counts in the appropriate counter objects
for i in range(len(reviews)):
    if(labels[i] == 'POSITIVE'):
        for word in reviews[i].split(" "):
            positive_counts[word] += 1
            total_counts[word] += 1
    else:
        for word in reviews[i].split(" "):
            negative_counts[word] += 1
            total_counts[word] += 1

Most common positive & negative words

In [ ]:
positive_counts.most_common()

The above statement retrieves alot of words, the top 3 being : ('the', 173324), ('.', 159654), ('and', 89722),

In [ ]:
negative_counts.most_common()

The above statement retrieves alot of words, the top 3 being : ('', 561462), ('.', 167538), ('the', 163389),

As you can see, common words like "the" appear very often in both positive and negative reviews. Instead of finding the most common words in positive or negative reviews, what you really want are the words found in positive reviews more often than in negative reviews, and vice versa. To accomplish this, you'll need to calculate the ratios of word usage between positive and negative reviews.

The positive-to-negative ratio for a given word can be calculated with positive_counts[word] / float(negative_counts[word]+1). Notice the +1 in the denominator – that ensures we don't divide by zero for words that are only seen in positive reviews.

In [58]:
pos_neg_ratios = Counter()

# Calculate the ratios of positive and negative uses of the most common words
# Consider words to be "common" if they've been used at least 100 times
for term,cnt in list(total_counts.most_common()):
    if(cnt > 100):
        pos_neg_ratio = positive_counts[term] / float(negative_counts[term]+1)
        pos_neg_ratios[term] = pos_neg_ratio

Examine the ratios

In [12]:
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'the' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["the"]))
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'amazing' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["amazing"]))
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'terrible' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["terrible"]))
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'the' = 1.0607993145235326
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'amazing' = 4.022813688212928
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'terrible' = 0.17744252873563218

We see the following:

  • Words that you would expect to see more often in positive reviews – like "amazing" – have a ratio greater than 1. The more skewed a word is toward postive, the farther from 1 its positive-to-negative ratio will be.
  • Words that you would expect to see more often in negative reviews – like "terrible" – have positive values that are less than 1. The more skewed a word is toward negative, the closer to zero its positive-to-negative ratio will be.
  • Neutral words, which don't really convey any sentiment because you would expect to see them in all sorts of reviews – like "the" – have values very close to 1. A perfectly neutral word – one that was used in exactly the same number of positive reviews as negative reviews – would be almost exactly 1.

Ok, the ratios tell us which words are used more often in postive or negative reviews, but the specific values we've calculated are a bit difficult to work with. A very positive word like "amazing" has a value above 4, whereas a very negative word like "terrible" has a value around 0.18. Those values aren't easy to compare for a couple of reasons:

  • Right now, 1 is considered neutral, but the absolute value of the postive-to-negative rations of very postive words is larger than the absolute value of the ratios for the very negative words. So there is no way to directly compare two numbers and see if one word conveys the same magnitude of positive sentiment as another word conveys negative sentiment. So we should center all the values around netural so the absolute value fro neutral of the postive-to-negative ratio for a word would indicate how much sentiment (positive or negative) that word conveys.
  • When comparing absolute values it's easier to do that around zero than one.

To fix these issues, we'll convert all of our ratios to new values using logarithms (i.e. use np.log(ratio))

In the end, extremely positive and extremely negative words will have positive-to-negative ratios with similar magnitudes but opposite signs.

In [59]:
# Convert ratios to logs
for word,ratio in pos_neg_ratios.most_common():
    pos_neg_ratios[word] = np.log(ratio)

Examine the new ratios

In [14]:
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'the' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["the"]))
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'amazing' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["amazing"]))
print("Pos-to-neg ratio for 'terrible' = {}".format(pos_neg_ratios["terrible"]))
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'the' = 0.05902269426102881
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'amazing' = 1.3919815802404802
Pos-to-neg ratio for 'terrible' = -1.7291085042663878

If everything worked, now you should see neutral words with values close to zero. In this case, "the" is near zero but slightly positive, so it was probably used in more positive reviews than negative reviews. But look at "amazing"'s ratio - it's above 1, showing it is clearly a word with positive sentiment. And "terrible" has a similar score, but in the opposite direction, so it's below -1. It's now clear that both of these words are associated with specific, opposing sentiments.

Run the below code to see more ratios.

It displays all the words, ordered by how associated they are with postive reviews.

In [ ]:
pos_neg_ratios.most_common()

The top most common words for the above code : ('edie', 4.6913478822291435), ('paulie', 4.0775374439057197), ('felix', 3.1527360223636558), ('polanski', 2.8233610476132043), ('matthau', 2.8067217286092401), ('victoria', 2.6810215287142909), ('mildred', 2.6026896854443837), ('gandhi', 2.5389738710582761), ('flawless', 2.451005098112319), ('superbly', 2.2600254785752498), ('perfection', 2.1594842493533721), ('astaire', 2.1400661634962708), ('captures', 2.0386195471595809), ('voight', 2.0301704926730531), ('wonderfully', 2.0218960560332353), ('powell', 1.9783454248084671), ('brosnan', 1.9547990964725592)

Transforming Text into Numbers

Creating the Input/Output Data

Create a set named vocab that contains every word in the vocabulary.

In [19]:
vocab = set(total_counts.keys())

Check vocabulary size

In [20]:
vocab_size = len(vocab)
print(vocab_size)
74074

Th following image rpresents the layers of the neural network you'll be building throughout this notebook. layer_0 is the input layer, layer_1 is a hidden layer, and layer_2 is the output layer.

In [1]:
 
Out[1]:

TODO: Create a numpy array called layer_0 and initialize it to all zeros. Create layer_0 as a 2-dimensional matrix with 1 row and vocab_size columns.

In [21]:
layer_0 = np.zeros((1,vocab_size))

layer_0 contains one entry for every word in the vocabulary, as shown in the above image. We need to make sure we know the index of each word, so run the following cell to create a lookup table that stores the index of every word.

TODO: Complete the implementation of update_input_layer. It should count how many times each word is used in the given review, and then store those counts at the appropriate indices inside layer_0.

In [ ]:
# Create a dictionary of words in the vocabulary mapped to index positions 
# (to be used in layer_0)
word2index = {}
for i,word in enumerate(vocab):
    word2index[word] = i

It stores the indexes like this: 'antony': 22, 'pinjar': 23, 'helsig': 24, 'dances': 25, 'good': 26, 'willard': 71500, 'faridany': 27, 'foment': 28, 'matts': 12313,

Lets implement some functions for simplifying our inputs to the neural network.

In [25]:
def update_input_layer(review):
    """
    The element at a given index of layer_0 should represent
    how many times the given word occurs in the review.
    """
     
    global layer_0
    
    # clear out previous state, reset the layer to be all 0s
    layer_0 *= 0
    
    # count how many times each word is used in the given review and store the results in layer_0 
    for word in review.split(" "):
        layer_0[0][word2index[word]] += 1

Run the following cell to test updating the input layer with the first review. The indices assigned may not be the same as in the solution, but hopefully you'll see some non-zero values in layer_0.

In [26]:
update_input_layer(reviews[0])
layer_0
Out[26]:
array([[ 18.,   0.,   0., ...,   0.,   0.,   0.]])

get_target_for_labels should return 0 or 1, depending on whether the given label is NEGATIVE or POSITIVE, respectively.

In [27]:
def get_target_for_label(label):
    if(label == 'POSITIVE'):
        return 1
    else:
        return 0

Building a Neural Network

In [32]:
import time
import sys
import numpy as np

# Encapsulate our neural network in a class
class SentimentNetwork:
    def __init__(self, reviews,labels,hidden_nodes = 10, learning_rate = 0.1):
        """
        Args:
            reviews(list) - List of reviews used for training
            labels(list) - List of POSITIVE/NEGATIVE labels
            hidden_nodes(int) - Number of nodes to create in the hidden layer
            learning_rate(float) - Learning rate to use while training
        
        """
        # Assign a seed to our random number generator to ensure we get
        # reproducable results
        np.random.seed(1)

        # process the reviews and their associated labels so that everything
        # is ready for training
        self.pre_process_data(reviews, labels)
        
        # Build the network to have the number of hidden nodes and the learning rate that
        # were passed into this initializer. Make the same number of input nodes as
        # there are vocabulary words and create a single output node.
        self.init_network(len(self.review_vocab),hidden_nodes, 1, learning_rate)

    def pre_process_data(self, reviews, labels):
        
        # populate review_vocab with all of the words in the given reviews
        review_vocab = set()
        for review in reviews:
            for word in review.split(" "):
                review_vocab.add(word)

        # Convert the vocabulary set to a list so we can access words via indices
        self.review_vocab = list(review_vocab)
        
        # populate label_vocab with all of the words in the given labels.
        label_vocab = set()
        for label in labels:
            label_vocab.add(label)
        
        # Convert the label vocabulary set to a list so we can access labels via indices
        self.label_vocab = list(label_vocab)
        
        # Store the sizes of the review and label vocabularies.
        self.review_vocab_size = len(self.review_vocab)
        self.label_vocab_size = len(self.label_vocab)
        
        # Create a dictionary of words in the vocabulary mapped to index positions
        self.word2index = {}
        for i, word in enumerate(self.review_vocab):
            self.word2index[word] = i
        
        # Create a dictionary of labels mapped to index positions
        self.label2index = {}
        for i, label in enumerate(self.label_vocab):
            self.label2index[label] = i
        
    def init_network(self, input_nodes, hidden_nodes, output_nodes, learning_rate):
        # Set number of nodes in input, hidden and output layers.
        self.input_nodes = input_nodes
        self.hidden_nodes = hidden_nodes
        self.output_nodes = output_nodes

        # Store the learning rate
        self.learning_rate = learning_rate

        # Initialize weights

        # These are the weights between the input layer and the hidden layer.
        self.weights_0_1 = np.zeros((self.input_nodes,self.hidden_nodes))
    
        # These are the weights between the hidden layer and the output layer.
        self.weights_1_2 = np.random.normal(0.0, self.output_nodes**-0.5, 
                                                (self.hidden_nodes, self.output_nodes))
        
        # The input layer, a two-dimensional matrix with shape 1 x input_nodes
        self.layer_0 = np.zeros((1,input_nodes))
    
    def update_input_layer(self,review):

        # clear out previous state, reset the layer to be all 0s
        self.layer_0 *= 0
        
        for word in review.split(" "):
            if(word in self.word2index.keys()):
                self.layer_0[0][self.word2index[word]] += 1
                
    def get_target_for_label(self,label):
        if(label == 'POSITIVE'):
            return 1
        else:
            return 0
        
    def sigmoid(self,x):
        return 1 / (1 + np.exp(-x))
    
    def sigmoid_output_2_derivative(self,output):
        return output * (1 - output)
    
    def train(self, training_reviews, training_labels):
        
        # make sure out we have a matching number of reviews and labels
        assert(len(training_reviews) == len(training_labels))
        
        # Keep track of correct predictions to display accuracy during training 
        correct_so_far = 0

        # Remember when we started for printing time statistics
        start = time.time()
        
        # loop through all the given reviews and run a forward and backward pass,
        # updating weights for every item
        for i in range(len(training_reviews)):
            
            # Get the next review and its correct label
            review = training_reviews[i]
            label = training_labels[i]
            
            ### Forward pass ###

            # Input Layer
            self.update_input_layer(review)

            # Hidden layer
            layer_1 = self.layer_0.dot(self.weights_0_1)

            # Output layer
            layer_2 = self.sigmoid(layer_1.dot(self.weights_1_2))
            
            ### Backward pass ###

            # Output error
            layer_2_error = layer_2 - self.get_target_for_label(label) # Output layer error is the difference between desired target and actual output.
            layer_2_delta = layer_2_error * self.sigmoid_output_2_derivative(layer_2)

            # Backpropagated error
            layer_1_error = layer_2_delta.dot(self.weights_1_2.T) # errors propagated to the hidden layer
            layer_1_delta = layer_1_error # hidden layer gradients - no nonlinearity so it's the same as the error

            # Update the weights
            self.weights_1_2 -= layer_1.T.dot(layer_2_delta) * self.learning_rate # update hidden-to-output weights with gradient descent step
            self.weights_0_1 -= self.layer_0.T.dot(layer_1_delta) * self.learning_rate # update input-to-hidden weights with gradient descent step

            # Keep track of correct predictions.
            if(layer_2 >= 0.5 and label == 'POSITIVE'):
                correct_so_far += 1
            elif(layer_2 < 0.5 and label == 'NEGATIVE'):
                correct_so_far += 1
            
            sys.stdout.write(" #Correct:" + str(correct_so_far) + " #Trained:" + str(i+1) \
                             + " Training Accuracy:" + str(correct_so_far * 100 / float(i+1))[:4] + "%")
    
    def test(self, testing_reviews, testing_labels):
        """
        Attempts to predict the labels for the given testing_reviews,
        and uses the test_labels to calculate the accuracy of those predictions.
        """
        
        # keep track of how many correct predictions we make
        correct = 0

        # Loop through each of the given reviews and call run to predict
        # its label. 
        for i in range(len(testing_reviews)):
            pred = self.run(testing_reviews[i])
            if(pred == testing_labels[i]):
                correct += 1
            
            sys.stdout.write(" #Correct:" + str(correct) + " #Tested:" + str(i+1) \
                             + " Testing Accuracy:" + str(correct * 100 / float(i+1))[:4] + "%")
    
    def run(self, review):
        """
        Returns a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE prediction for the given review.
        """
        # Run a forward pass through the network, like in the "train" function.
        
        # Input Layer
        self.update_input_layer(review.lower())

        # Hidden layer
        layer_1 = self.layer_0.dot(self.weights_0_1)

        # Output layer
        layer_2 = self.sigmoid(layer_1.dot(self.weights_1_2))
        
        # Return POSITIVE for values above greater-than-or-equal-to 0.5 in the output layer;
        # return NEGATIVE for other values
        if(layer_2[0] >= 0.5):
            return "POSITIVE"
        else:
            return "NEGATIVE"
        

Run the following code to create the network with a small learning rate, 0.001, and then train the new network. Using learning rate larger than this, for example 0.1 or even 0.01 would result in poor performance.

In [ ]:
mlp = SentimentNetwork(reviews[:-1000],labels[:-1000], learning_rate=0.001)
mlp.train(reviews[:-1000],labels[:-1000])

Running the above code would have given an accuracy around 62.2%

Reducing Noise in Our Input Data

Counting how many times each word occured in our review might not be the most efficient way. Instead just including whether a word was there or not will improve our training time and accuracy. Hence we update our update_input_layer() function.

In [ ]:
def update_input_layer(self,review):
    self.layer_0 *= 0
        
    for word in review.split(" "):
        if(word in self.word2index.keys()):
            self.layer_0[0][self.word2index[word]] =1

Creating and running our neural network again, even with a higher learning rate of 0.1 gave us a training accuracy of 83.8% and testing accuracy(testing on last 1000 reviews) of 85.7%.

Reducing Noise by Strategically Reducing the Vocabulary

Let us put the pos to neg ratio's that we found were much more effective at detecting a positive or negative label. We could do that by a few change:

  • Modify pre_process_data:
    • Add two additional parameters: min_count and polarity_cutoff
    • Calculate the positive-to-negative ratios of words used in the reviews.
    • Change so words are only added to the vocabulary if they occur in the vocabulary more than min_count times.
    • Change so words are only added to the vocabulary if the absolute value of their postive-to-negative ratio is at least polarity_cutoff
In [ ]:
def pre_process_data(self, reviews, labels, polarity_cutoff, min_count):
        
        positive_counts = Counter()
        negative_counts = Counter()
        total_counts = Counter()

        for i in range(len(reviews)):
            if(labels[i] == 'POSITIVE'):
                for word in reviews[i].split(" "):
                    positive_counts[word] += 1
                    total_counts[word] += 1
            else:
                for word in reviews[i].split(" "):
                    negative_counts[word] += 1
                    total_counts[word] += 1

        pos_neg_ratios = Counter()

        for term,cnt in list(total_counts.most_common()):
            if(cnt >= 50):
                pos_neg_ratio = positive_counts[term] / float(negative_counts[term]+1)
                pos_neg_ratios[term] = pos_neg_ratio

        for word,ratio in pos_neg_ratios.most_common():
            if(ratio > 1):
                pos_neg_ratios[word] = np.log(ratio)
            else:
                pos_neg_ratios[word] = -np.log((1 / (ratio + 0.01)))

        # populate review_vocab with all of the words in the given reviews
        review_vocab = set()
        for review in reviews:
            for word in review.split(" "):
                if(total_counts[word] > min_count):
                    if(word in pos_neg_ratios.keys()):
                        if((pos_neg_ratios[word] >= polarity_cutoff) or (pos_neg_ratios[word] <= -polarity_cutoff)):
                            review_vocab.add(word)
                    else:
                        review_vocab.add(word)

        # Convert the vocabulary set to a list so we can access words via indices
        self.review_vocab = list(review_vocab)
        
        # populate label_vocab with all of the words in the given labels.
        label_vocab = set()
        for label in labels:
            label_vocab.add(label)
        
        # Convert the label vocabulary set to a list so we can access labels via indices
        self.label_vocab = list(label_vocab)
        
        # Store the sizes of the review and label vocabularies.
        self.review_vocab_size = len(self.review_vocab)
        self.label_vocab_size = len(self.label_vocab)
        
        # Create a dictionary of words in the vocabulary mapped to index positions
        self.word2index = {}
        for i, word in enumerate(self.review_vocab):
            self.word2index[word] = i
        
        # Create a dictionary of labels mapped to index positions
        self.label2index = {}
        for i, label in enumerate(self.label_vocab):
            self.label2index[label] = i

Our training accuracy increased to 85.6% after this change. As we can see our accuracy saw a huge jump by making minor changes based on our intuition. We can keep making such changes and increase the accuracy even further.

 

Download the Data Sources

The data sources used in this article can be downloaded here:

Deep Learning and Human Intelligence – Part 2 of 2

Data dependency is one of the biggest problem of Deep Learning Architectures. This difficulty lies not so much in the algorithm of Deep Learning as in the invisible structure of the data itself.

This is part 2 of 2 of the Article Series: Deep Learning and Human Intelligence.

We saw that the process of discovering numbers was accompanied with many aspects of what are today basic ideas of Machine Learning. But let us go back, a little before that time, when humankind did not fully discovered the concept of numbers. How would a person, at such a time, perceive quantity and the count of things? Some structures are easily recognizable as patterns of objects, that is numbers, like one sun, 2 trees, 3 children, 4 clouds and so on. Sets of objects are much simpler to count if all the objects of the set are present. In such a case it is sufficient to keep a one-to-one relationship between two different set, without the need for numbers, to make a judgement of crucial importance. One could consider the case of two enemies that go to war and wish to know which has a larger army. It is enough to associate a small stone to every enemy soldier and do the same with his one soldier to be able to decide, depending if stones are left or not, if his army is larger or not, without ever needing to know the exact number soldier of any of the armies.

But also does things can be counted which are not directly visible, and do not allow a direct association with direct observable objects that can be seen, like stones. Would a person, at that time, be able to observe easily the 4-th day since today, 5 weeks from now, when even the concept of week is already composite? Counting in this case is only possible if numbers are already developed through direct observation, and we use something similar with stones in our mind, i.e. a cognitive association, a number. Only then, one can think of the concept of measuring at equidistant moments in time at all. This is the reason why such measurements where still cutting edge in the time of Galileo Galilei as we seen before. It is easily to assume that even in the time when humans started to count, such indirect concepts of numbers were not considered to be in relation with numbers. This implies that many concepts with which we are today accustomed to regard as a number, were considered as belonging to different groups, cluster which are not related. Such an hypothesis is not even that much farfetched. Evidence for such a time are still present in some languages, like Japanese.

When we think of numbers, we associate them with the Indo-Arabic numbers, but in Japanese numbers have no decimal structure and counting depends not only on the length of the set (which is usually considered as the number), but also on the objects that make up the set. In Japanese one can speak of meeting roku people, visiting muttsu cities and seeing ropa birds, but referring each time to the same number: six. Additional, many regular or irregular suffixes make the whole system quite complicated. The division of counting into so many clusters seems unnecessarily complicated today, but can easily be understood from a point of view where language and numbers still form and, the numbers, were not yet a uniform concept. What one can learn from this is that the lack of a unifying concept implies an overly complex dependence on data, which is the present case for Deep Learning and AI in general.

Although Deep Learning was a breakthrough in the development of Artificial Intelligence, the task such algorithms can perform were and remained very narrow. It may identify birds or cancer cells, but it will miss the song of the birds or the cry of the patient with cancer. When Watson, a Deep Learning Architecture played the famous Jeopardy game against two former Champions and won, it still made several simple mistakes, like going for the same wrong answer like the player before. If it could listen to the answer of the candidate, it could delete the top answer it had, and gibe the second which was the right one. With other words, Deep Learning Architecture are not multi-tasking and it is for this reason that some experts in AI are calling them intelligent idiots.

Imagine spending time learning to play a game for years and years, and then, when mastering it and wish to play a different game, to be unable to use any of the past experience (of gaming) for the new one and needing to learn everything from scratch. That could be quite depressing and would make life needlessly difficult. This is the reason why people involved in developing Deep Learning worked from early on in the development of multi-tasking Deep Learning Architectures. On the way a different method of using Deep Learning was discovered: transfer learning. Because the time it takes for a Deep Learning Architecture to learn is very long, transfer learning uses already learned Deep Learning Architectures but for slightly different task. It is similar to the use of past experiences in solving new problems, but, the advantage of transfer learning is, it allow the using of past experiences (what it already learned) which reduces dramatically the amount of new data needed in performing a new task. Still, transfer learning is far away from permitting Deep Learning Architectures to perform any kind of task learning only from one master data set.

The management of a unique master data set which includes all the needed data to enable human accuracy for any human activity, is not enough. One needs another ingredient, the so called cost function which translates, in this case, to the human brain. There are all our experiences and knowledge. How long does it takes to collect sufficient of both to handle a normal human life? How much to achieve our highest potential? If not a lifetime, at least decades. And this also applies to our job: as a IT-developer, a Data Scientist or a professor at the university. We will always have to learn new things, how to use them, and how to expand the limits of our perceptions. The vast amount of information that science has gathered over the last four centuries makes it impossible for any human being to become an expert in all of it. Thus, one has to specialized. After the university, anyone has to choose o subject which is appealing enough to study it for decades. Here is the first sign of what can be understood as data segmentation and dependency. Such improvements can come in various forms: an algorithm in the IT, a theorem in mathematics, a new way to look at particles in physics or a new method to scan for diseases in biology, and so on. But there is a price to pay for specialization: the inability to be an expert in another field or subfield. (Subfields induces limitation!)

Lets take the Deep Learning algorithm itself as an example. For IT and much of everyday life, this is a real breakthrough, but it lacks any scientific, that is mathematical, foundation. There are no theorems which proofs that it will find (converge, to use a mathematical term) the global optimum. This does not appear to be of any great consequences if it can be so efficient, except that, when adding new data and let the algorithm learn the same architecture again, there is no guaranty what so ever that it will be as good as the old model, or even better. On the contrary, it is as real as the efficiency of the first model, that chances are that the new model with the new data will perform worse than the old model, and one has to invest again time in finding a better model, or even a different architecture. On the other hand, with a mathematical proof of convergence, it would be always possible to know in what condition such a convergence can be achieved. In other words, without deep knowledge in mathematics, any proof of a consistent Deep Learning Algorithm is impossible.

Such a situation is true for any other corssover between fields. A mathematical genius will make a lousy biologist, a great chemist will make a average economist, and a top economist will be a poor physicist. Knowledge is difficult to transfer and this is true also for everyday experiences. We learn from very small to play a game like football, but are unable to use the reflexes to play basketball, or tennis better than a normal beginner. We learn a new language after years and years of practice, but are unable to use the way we learned to learn faster other languages. We are trapped within the knowledge we developed from the data we used. It is for this reason why we cannot transfer the knowledge a mathematician has developed over decades to use it in biology or psychology, even if the knowledge is very advanced. Instead of thinking in knowledge, we thing in data. This is similar to the people which were unaware of numbers, and used sets (data) to work with them. Numbers could be very difficult to transmit from one person to another in former times.

Only think on all the great achievements that our society managed, like relativity, quantum mechanics, DNA, machines, etc. Such discoveries are the essences of human knowledge and took millennia to form and centuries to crystalize. Still, all this knowledge is captive in the data, in the special frame in which it was discovered and never had the chance to escape. Imagine the possibility to use thoughts/causalities like the one in relativity or quantum mechanics in biology, or history, or of the concept of DNA in mathematics or art. Imagine a music composition where the law of the notes allows a “tunnel effect” like in quantum mechanics, lower notes to warp the music scales like in relativity and/or to twist two music scale in a helix-like play. How many way to experience life awaits us. Or think of the knowledge hidden in mathematics which could help develop new medicine, but can not be transmitted.

Another example of the connection we experience between knowledge and the data through which we obtain it, are children. They are classical example when it come determine if one is up to explain to them something. Take as an explain something simple they can observe often, like lightning and thunder. Normal concepts like particles, charge, waves, propagation, medium of propagation, etc. become so complicated to expose by other means then the one through which they were discovered, that it becomes nearly impossible to explain to children how it works and that they do not need to fear it. Still, one can use analogy (i.e., transfer) to enable an explanation. Instead of particles, one can use balls, for charge one can use hardness, waves can be shown with strings by keeping one end fix and waving the other, propagation is the movement of the waves from one end of the string to the other end, medium of propagation is the difference between walking in air and water, etc. Although difficult, analogies can be found which enables us to explain even to children how complex phenomena works.

The same is true also for Deep Learning. The model, the knowledge it can extract from the data can be expressed only by such data alone. There is no transformation of the knowledge from one type of data to another. If such a transformation would exists, then Deep Learning would be able to learn any human task by only a set of data, a master data set. Without such a master data set and a corresponding cost function it will be nearly impossible to develop AI that mimics human behavior. With other words, without the realization how our mind works, and how to crystalize by this the data needed, AI will still need to look at all the activities separately. It also implies that AI are restricted to the human understanding of reality and themselves. Only with such a characteristic of a living being, thus also AI, can development of its on occur.

Interview – The Importance of Machine Learning for the Data Driven Business

To become more data-driven, organizations must mature their analytics and automate more of their decision making processes for innovation and differentiation. Data science seems like the right approach, yet is a new and fast moving field that seems to have as many dead ends as it has high ways to value. Cloudera Fast Forward Labs, led by Hilary Mason, shows companies the way.

Alice Albrecht is a research engineer at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs.  She spends her days researching the latest and greatest in machine learning and artificial intelligence and bringing that knowledge to working prototypes and delivering concrete advice for clients.  Prior to joining Fast Forward Labs, Alice worked in both finance and technology companies as a practicing data scientist, data science leader, and – most recently – a data product manager.  In addition to teaching machines to do cool things, Alice is passionate about mentoring and helping others grow in their careers.  Alice holds a PhD from Yale in cognitive neuroscience where she studied how humans summarize sensory information from the world around them and the neural substrates that underlie those summaries.

Read this article in German:
“Interview – Die Bedeutung von Machine Learning für das Data Driven Business“

Data Science Blog: Ms. Albrecht, you are a well-known keynote speaker for data science and artificial intelligence. While data science has arrived business already, deep learning seems to be the new trend. Is artificial intelligence for business already normal business or is it an overrated hype?

I’d say it isn’t either of those two options.  Data science is now widely adopted but companies still struggle to integrate this new discipline into their existing businesses.  As for deep learning, it really depends on the company that’s looking into using this technique.  I wouldn’t say that deep learning is by any means part of business as usual- nor should it be.  It’s a tool like any other and building a capacity for using a tool without clearly defined business needs is a recipe for disaster.

Data Science Blog: Just to make sure what we are talking about: What are the differences and overlaps between data analytics, data science, machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence?

Here at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs, we like to think of data analytics as collecting data and counting things (mostly for quick charts and reports).  Data science solves business problems by counting cleverly and predicting things with the data that’s collected.  Machine learning is about solving problems with new kinds of feedback loops that improve with more data.  Deep learning is a particular type of machine learning and is not itself a separate concept or type of tool.  Artificial intelligence taps into something more complicated than what we’re seeing today – it’s much broader than training machines to repetitively do very specialized tasks or solve very narrow problems.

Data Science Blog: And how can we add the context to big data?

From a theoretical perspective, data science has been around for decades. The building blocks for modern day machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence are based on mathematical theorems  that go back to the 1940’s and 1950’s. The challenge was that at the time, compute power and data storage capacity were simply too expensive for the approaches to be implemented. Today that’s all changed.. Not only has the cost of data storage dropped considerably, open source technology like Apache Hadoop has made it possible to store any volume of data at costs approaching zero. Compute power, even highly specialised chip architectures, are now also available on demand and only for the time organisations need them through public and private cloud solutions. The decreased cost of both data storage and compute power, together with a growing list of tools and resources readily available via the open source community allows companies of any size to benefit from data (no matter that size of that data).

Data Science Blog: What are the challenges for organizations in getting started with data science?

I see two big challenges when getting started with data science.  One is ensuring that you have organizational alignment around exactly what type of work data scientists will deliver (and timing for those projects).  The second hurdle is around ensuring that you have the right data in place before you start hiring data scientists. This can be tricky if you don’t have in-house expertise in this area, so sometimes it’s better to hire a data engineer or a data strategist (or director of data science) before you ever get started building out a data science team.

Data Science Blog: There are many discussions about how to build a data-driven business. Is it just about using data science to get a better understanding of customer behavior?

No, being data driven doesn’t just mean better understanding your customers (though that is one way that data science can help in an organization).  Aside from building an organization that relies on data and analytics to help them make decisions (about customer behavior or otherwise), being a data-driven business means that data is powering your core products.

Data Science Blog: The number of technologies, tools and frameworks is increasing. For organizations this also means increasing complexity. Do companies need to stay always up-to-date or could it be an advice to wait and imitate pioneers later?

While it’s not critical (or advisable) for organizations to adopt every new advancement that comes along, it is critical for them to stay abreast of emerging frameworks.  If a business waits to see what others are doing, and therefore don’t invest in understanding how new advancements can affect their particular business, they’ve likely already missed the boat.

Data Science Blog: Global players have big budgets just for doing research and setting up data labs. Middle-sized companies need to see the break even point soon. How can we accelerate the value generation of data science?

Having a team that is highly focused on a specific set of projects that are well-scoped and aligned to the business makes all the difference.  Data science and machine learning don’t have to sacrifice doing research and being innovative in order to produce value.  The biggest difference is that smaller teams will have to be more aware of how their choice of project fits into emerging frameworks and their particular acute and near term business needs.

Data Science Blog: How does Cloudera Fast Forward Labs help other organizations to accelerate their start with machine learning?

We advise organizations, based on their particular needs, on what the latest advancements are in machine learning and data science, how to build and structure their data teams to develop the capabilities they need to meet their goals, and how to quickly implement custom forward-looking solutions using their own data and in-house expertise.

Data Science Blog: Finally, a question for our younger readers who are looking for a career as a data expert: What makes a good data scientist? Do you like to work with introverted coding nerds or the data loving business experts?

A good data scientists should be deeply curious and have a love for the ways in which data can lead to new discoveries and power the next generation of products.  We expect the people who thrive in this field to come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.