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Personalized technology is helping researchers make unanticipated connections

With AI and machine learning, new technology enables scientists to understand more research and data than ever before

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Robert Homewood is researching personalized technology in digital games as a PhD student in the Intelligent Games & Games Intelligence program at Goldsmiths University of London.

Editor’s Note: This month, Elsevier Connect is exploring the personalization of technology in science and health.


Today’s scientists need to read and analyze an unprecedented amount of data and research. According to a recent report by IBM, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone and continues to grow rapidly.

The number of peer reviewed articles published each year is growing too, with about 28,100 English-language journals publishing 2.5 million articles a year, according to The STM Report 2015. Not only do researchers need to make sense of more information; there are far more researchers they can connect and collaborate with over 7 million globally.

Intelligent games

These are some of the challenges students are tackling in the Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence program at Goldsmiths, University of London. PhD student Robert Homewood explains:

As technology is developing, especially artificial intelligence and machine learning, we’re getting better tools to work with data and to be able to extract insights from (it). This, coupled with the fact that so much of peoples’ lives are lived online nowadays, means there is potentially a huge amount to read and analyze.

His research involves the personalization of technology in digital games – an emerging field that is transforming technology and the lives of people who use it. Homewood’s focus is on developing new technologies for dynamically personalizing the look and feel of games, experimenting with machine learning and how social data can be used. “I’m currently experimenting with various APIs to gather my own data,” he says, “and am looking at my own social networks, to work out what I can find out about myself that I can then apply to other people.”

He’s doing this work in the context of gaming, focusing on the personalization of gaming with actual data from people’s lives:

Imagine a game where the visuals are specific to you, your friends or the bands you love for example. This can have important societal benefits, when used in an ethical manner.

As an example, he’s been involved in research that looks into personalized educational games for young people.

Applications for research

Gaby AppletonIt is not surprising that Homewood himself has a strong need for personalized tools, says Gaby Appleton, Managing Director of Mendeley, a free reference manager and academic social network: “We know – because researchers tell us – that not missing anything relevant to them is incredibly important,” says Appleton, “Finding the time to read everything is impossible though, due to the sheer volume of information out there. This is where personalized tools step in to help.

“Just as Homewood studies data from behaviors online, Mendeley Suggest uses sophisticated big-data algorithms to look at online behaviors in the research process,” Appleton explains. “It will then suggest relevant research and other scientists to potentially collaborate with. It also enables researchers to make unanticipated connections, to research you might not have considered yourself and to researchers across the globe.”

Homewood gave an example of how Mendeley Suggest helped him in his own research in a way he could not have anticipated:

There was a really good article that was suggested to me about automated game producers. Producers of games are like the project manager. I’d not really thought about this before but it popped up in my suggestion feed. It didn’t cover what I was specifically dealing with, but there were tangential links that sparked off ideas in my head. This is how it influenced my research – it suggested something that inspired ideas elsewhere.

What’s next?

As a researcher, Homewood appreciates the immense potential of personalized technology:

There’s a lot of work still to do … but we’re quickly heading in the right direction. In five years, there is going to be a lot more data available, and I think the biggest improvement will be in accuracy, as models and techniques improve and more data is available. It’s like how Google search results have got so much better; you don’t notice it because it’s the tool that you use every day, but it’s improved in tens of thousands of incremental steps.

It’s likely that there will be other things that people see as dramatic changes in this area, like different interfaces. To have more of a human facade, such as a virtual assistant, to help you navigate your way through various tasks.

Of course, while some of this may appear easy or “automatic” to the user, it’s anything but:

As Appleton explains:

Making it easier for researchers to find information relevant to them appears simple but is actually incredibly complex. It’s very important though; highly personalized technology enables researchers to advance science and healthcare, which benefits us all.

About Mendeley

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research:

  • Automatically generate bibliographies.
  • Collaborate easily with other researchers online.
  • Easily import papers from other research software.
  • Find relevant papers based on what you're reading.
  • Access your papers from anywhere online.
  • Read papers on the go, with our iOS and Android apps.


Supporting open data at Elsevier

Elsevier is also enabling researchers to store, share, discover and reuse data. We have:

  • 55,000 users each month utilizing open data tools including Mendeley Data, Hivebench and Data Search.
  • 1.6 million links from published articles to datasets stored in 65 external data repositories
  • 3,000 dedicated data articles.
  • 1,400 published datasets and an additional 32,000 created datasets on our data repository Mendeley Data.
  • Helped researchers to digitalize their data on Hivebench, with 10,000 electronic notebooks created with 25,000 experiments recorded.

Source: 5 surprising facts about Elsevier and open access

Learn more about how Elsevier supports data privacy.

Robert Homewood at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is a PhD student in the Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence program.

Robert J. Homewood is a PhD student at Goldsmiths, University of London. He explores procedurally generating aesthetically personalized game content as part of the university’s Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence program. He has studied for an Msc in Serious Games, specializing in educational games, from the University of Skövde, Sweden.

The personalization of technology

Empowering Knowledge pageFor scientists to make discoveries that benefit society, they need to make sense of more research and data than ever before in our globally connected world. At Elsevier, we have the deep knowledge and technological expertise to support researchers with highly personalized tools. Products like Mendeley Suggest use sophisticated machine learning algorithms to track online behavior, helping scientists quickly discover relevant research — and other scientists to collaborate with. Highly personalized technology empowers today's researchers to advance science and healthcare and improve their own performance for the benefit of humanity.

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