Using models

All recommender objects in the turicreate.recommender module expose a common set of methods, such as recommend and evaluate.

In this section we will cover

Making recommendations

Once a model is created, you can now make recommendations of new items for users. To do so, call model.recommend() with an SArray of user ids. If users is set to None, then model.recommend() will make recommendations for all the users seen during model creation, automatically excluding the items that are observed for each user. In other words, if data contains a row "Alice, The Great Gatsby", then model.recommend() will not recommend "The Great Gatsby" for user "Alice". It will return at most k new items for each user, sorted by their rank. It will return fewer than k items if there are not enough items that the user has not already rated or seen.

The score column of the output contains the unnormalized prediction scores for each user-item pair. The semantic meanings of these scores may differ between models. For the linear regression model, for instance, a higher average score for a user means that the model thinks that this user is generally more enthusiastic than others.

There are a number of ways to make recommendations: for known users or new users, with new observation data or side information, and with different ways to explicitly control item inclusion or exclusion. Let's walk through these options together.

Making recommendations for all users

By default, calling m.recommend() without any arguments returns the top 10 recommendations for all users seen during model creation. It automatically excludes items that were seen during model creation. Hence all generated recommendations are for items that the user has not already seen.

data = turicreate.SFrame({'user_id': ["Ann", "Ann", "Ann", "Brian", "Brian", "Brian"],
                          'item_id': ["Item1", "Item2", "Item4", "Item2", "Item3", "Item5"],
                          'rating': [1, 3, 2, 5, 4, 2]})
m = turicreate.factorization_recommender.create(data, target='rating')

recommendations = m.recommend()
Making recommendations for specific users

If you specify a list or SArray of users, recommend() returns recommendations for only those user(s). The user names must correspond to strings in the user_id column in the training data.

recommendations = m.recommend(users=['Brian'])
Making recommendations for specific users and items

In situations where you build a model for all of your users and items, you may wish to limit the recommendations for particular users based on known item attributes. For example, for US-based customers you may want to limit recommendations to US-based products. The following code sample restricts recommendations to a subset of users and items -- specifically those users and items whose value in the 'country' column is equal to "United States".

country = 'United States'
Making recommendations for new users

This is known as the "cold-start" problem. The recommend() function works seamlessly with new users. If the model has never seen the user, then it defaults to recommending popular items:


Here 'Charlie' is a new user that does not appear in the training data. Also note that you don't need to explicitly write down users=; Python automatically assumes that arguments are provided in order, so the first unnamed argument to recommend() is taken to be the user list.

Incorporating information about a new user

To improve recommendations for new users, it helps to have side information or new observation data for the user.

Incorporating new side information

To incorporate side information, you must have already created a recommender model that knows how to incorporate side features. This can be done by passing in side information to create(). For example:

user_info = turicreate.SFrame({'user_id': ['Ann', 'Brian'],
                                'age_category': ['2', '3']})
m_side_info = turicreate.factorization_recommender.create(data, target='rating',

Now, we can add side information for the new user at recommendation time. The new side information must contain a column with the same name as the column in the training data that's designated as the 'user_id'. (For more details, please see the API documentation for turicreate.recommender.create.)

new_user_info = turicreate.SFrame({'user_id' : ['Charlie'],
                                 'age_category' : ['2']})
recommendations = m_side_info.recommend(['Charlie'],
                                        new_user_data = new_user_info)

Given Charlie's age category, the model can incorporate what it knows about the importance of age categories for item recommendations. Currently, the following models can take side information into account when making recommendations: LinearRegressionModel, FactorizationRecommender. LinearRegressionModel is the simpler model, and FactorizationRecommender the more powerful. For more details on how each model makes use of side information, please refer to the model definition sections in the individual models' API documentation.

Incorporating new observation data

recommend() accepts new observation data. Currently, the ItemSimilarityModel makes the best use of this information.

m_item_sim = turicreate.item_similarity_recommender.create(data)
new_obs_data = turicreate.SFrame({'user_id' : ['Charlie', 'Charlie'],
                                'item_id' : ['Item1', 'Item5']})
recommendations = m_item_sim.recommend(['Charlie'], new_observation_data = new_obs_data)
Controlling the number of recommendations

The input parameter k controls how many items to recommend for each user.

recommendations = m.recommend(k = 5)
Excluding specific items from recommendation

Suppose you make some recommendations to the user and they ignored them. So now you want other recommendations. This can be done by explicitly excluding those undesirable items via the exclude keyword argument.

exclude_pairs = turicreate.SFrame({'user_id' : ['Ann'],
                                    'item_id' : ['Item3']})

recommendations = m.recommend(['Ann'], k = 5, exclude = exclude_pairs)

By default, recommend() excludes items seen during training, so that it would not recommend items that the user has already seen. To change this behavior, you can specify exclude_known=False.

recommendations = m.recommend(exclude_known = False)
Including specific items in recommendation

Suppose you want to see only recommendations within a subset of items. This can be done via the items keyword argument. The input must be an SArray of items.

item_subset = turicreate.SArray(["Item3", "Item5", "Item2"])
recommendations = m.recommend(['Ann'], items = item_subset)

Finding Similar Items

Many of the above models make recommendations based on some notion of similarity between a pair of items. Querying for similar items can help you understand the model's behavior on your data.

We have made this process very easy with the get_similar_items function:

similar_items = model.get_similar_items(my_list_of_items, k=20)

The above will return an SFrame containing the 20 nearest items for every item in my_list_of_items. The definition of "nearest" depends on the type of similarity used by the model. For instance, "jaccard" similarity measures the two item's overlapping users. The 'score' column contains a similarity score ranging between 0 and 1, where larger values indicate increasing similarity. The mathematical formula used for each type of similarity can be found in the API documentation for ItemSimilarityRecommender.

For a factorization-based model, the similarity used for is the Euclidean distance between the items' two factors, which can be obtained using m['coefficients'].

Saving and loading models

The model can be saved for later use, either on the local machine or in an AWS S3 bucket. The saved model sits in its own directory, and can be loaded back in later to make more predictions."my_model.model")

Like other models in Turi Create, we can load the model back:

model = tc.load_model("my_model.model")

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