Facebook open-sources Ax and BoTorch to simplify AI model optimization


At its F8 developer conference, Facebook today launched Ax and BoTorch, two new open-source AI tools.

BoTorch, which, as the name implies, is based on PyTorch, is a library for Bayesian optimization. That’s a pretty specialized tool. Ax, on the other hand, is the more interesting launch, as it’s a general-purpose platform for managing, deploying and automating AI experiments. Both tools, though, are part of the same overall work at Facebook, which focuses on what the company calls “adaptive experimentation.” Indeed, Ax interfaces with BoTorch and, internally, Facebook has used the two tools for tasks that vary from optimizing Instagram’s back-end infrastructure to improving the response rates of user surveys.

At its core, BoTorch — and Bayesian optimization in general — is all about making model optimizing easier and faster for data scientists to get to a production-ready model. Typically, this involves a lot of trial and error and is often more an art than a science. “It takes the art out of it. It automates it,” Joe Spisak, Facebook AI’s product manager for PyTorch, said. “And our goal is to consume the latest research.”

BoTorch is not the first Bayesian optimization tool. Facebook, however, argues that these existing libraries