What is Machine Learning?
our ability to learn and get better at tasks through experience is part of being human when we are born we know almost nothing and can do almost nothing for ourselves but soon we’re learning and becoming more capable every day but did you know that computers can do the same. Machine learning brings together statistics and computer science to enable computers to learn how to do a given task without being programmed to do so. Just as your brain uses experience to improve a task so can computers. Say you need a computer that can tell the difference between a picture of a dog and a picture of a cat you could begin by feeding it images and telling it this one’s a dog, that one’s a cat. A computer programmed to learn will seek statistical patterns within the data that will enable it to recognize a cat or dog in the future it might figure out on its own that cats have shorter noses and dogs come in a larger variety of sizes and then represent that information numerically organizing in space but crucially it’s the computer not the programmer that identifies those patterns and establishes the algorithm by which future data will be sorted. One example of a simple yet highly effective algorithm is to find the optimal line separating cats from dogs. When the computer sees a new picture it checks which side of the line it falls on and then says either cat or dog. But of course there can be mistakes. The more data the computer receives the more finely tunes its algorothm becomes and the more accurate it can be in its predictions. Machine learning is already widely applied. It’s the technology behind facial recognition, text to speech recognition, spam filters on your inbox, online shopping or viewing recommendations, credit card fraud detection and so much more. At the University of Oxford machine learning researchers are combining statistics and computer science to build algorithms that can solve more complex problems, more efficiently, using less computing power From medical diagnosis to social media the potential of machine learning to transform our world is truly mind-blowing. To find out more about machine learning visit www.OxfordSparks.ox.ac.uk follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook