Barry Smyth, esteemed professor and expert in Conversational Recommender Systems, joins the Traverz Advisory Board

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“The technology that Traverz has developed is an important step towards commoditising conversational AI and allowing e-commerce players, big and small, to take personalisation to the next level”  – Barry Smyth 


 

We take great pride in announcing that Professor Barry Smyth, acclaimed researcher, technopreneur, and holder of the Digital Chair of Computer Science at University College Dublin, has joined the Traverz Advisory Board.

Barry has been at the forefront of academic research into recommender systems, and has pioneered personalisation techniques from the early days of internet search. He is also a successful technopreneur, having co-founded ChangingWorlds (personalisation technologies) and HeyStaks (social search), and serves on the boards of a number of rapidly growing young organisations. Moving forward, Barry believes that conversational recommendation is the future of personalized on-line search.

“With 25+ years of deep experience in personalisation, Barry’s insights will be invaluable in guiding Traverz’ mission to bring about a paradigm shift in the way we search”, says CEO, Twan Vollebregt. 

A force in both academia and industry

Barry holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and has been a Fellow of the European Coordinating Committee on AI (ECCAI) since 2003. His research interests include artificial intelligence, information discovery, and recommender systems. Barry’s profound understanding and steely grip on these cutting-edge technologies is evidenced by the 400+ scientific articles published under his name and his contribution to dozens of patents.

He is also a much sought-after keynote speaker at international seminars and conventions. At the 14th ACM Recommender Systems conference (RecSys) held in September 2020, Barry shared how conversational recommender systems have evolved over the last 25 years and are finally starting to come of age. Amidst a forum comprising industry giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix, he took the opportunity to mention and laud the Traverz conversational AI agent in the context of the evolution of e-commerce.

Deep insights into search and personalisation

When asked what he believed was the biggest challenge facing online retailers, Barry shared:

“Although technology is making strides in improving online customer experience, Product Search fails to drive loyalty because it neglects User Experience”.  

Even within the advanced UX offered on platforms such as Amazon, the onus of using filters, browsing through recommendations, and discovering products rests with customers. These solutions may work well in simple transactions such as buying books or music, but for larger, considered purchases, there arises a need to offer personalized support. For this, an AI-driven virtual shopping assistant needs to know the questions that are most relevant to consumers, and have an in-depth understanding of the product space.

“In order to personalise, you generally need to know a lot about your customers, they have to be returning customers, and they have to trust you. To build that loyalty, you need to offer them an experience that they can’t get somewhere else.”

The fact that the Traverz agent is able to wow a new user with personalised search in the very first visit – even before the site has much data on the user –  is something that Barry believes is a huge differentiator.

“What impressed me about the Traverz technology is that it can support a brand new user and generate value for them from the first interaction itself.”

It’s only the large enterprises that have their own ML and NLP divisions to develop solutions in this area, and it usually takes a few years for the technology to be commoditised. In Barry’s words, “The technology that Traverz has developed is an important step towards commoditising this technology, allowing e-commerce players to take advantage of it – even when they may not have the skills to build such a system themselves”. 

A technopreneur who has successfully taken new innovations to market

Barry will play a key role in guiding the Traverz team as they take the innovative ‘Search-by-Traverz’ experience to market.

His entrepreneurial experience is immensely relevant to Traverz as the companies he has founded focused on maximising consumer delight through technology.  ChangingWorlds provided personalization and intelligent solutions for mobile service providers and HeyStaks helps solution providers deliver value with collaborative search analytics. Based on this experience, Barry advises technology companies offering disruptive solutions (like Traverz) to plan for incremental roll-outs as per market-readiness instead of offering everything at once.

When asked to share a message for Traverz, he asserted:

“Traverz is at the cusp of redefining product search. And it’s been the first time in a long time that I’ve seen a startup put together those solutions in the right way – making it simple, but very effective. And that’s what drew me to the guys. They were able to demonstrate how they thought about the space and where that led them. The team should believe in themselves and their instincts, and stick with it.”

The team at Traverz is thrilled to have Barry on board. His academic and commercial expertise in generating value for users through product recommendations will help Traverz with its mission to humanise the product search experience through AI and personalisation.

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