There’s a lot of conversation lately about all the possibilities of machines learning to do things humans currently do in our factories, warehouses, offices and homes. While the technology is evolving—quickly—along with fears and excitement, terms such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning may leave you perplexed. I hope that this simple guide will help sort out the confusion around deep learning and that the 8 practical examples will help to clarify the actual use of deep learning technology today.
What is deep learning?
The field of artificial intelligence is essentially when machines can do tasks that typically require human intelligence. It encompasses machine learning, where machines can learn by experience and acquire skills without human involvement. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning where artificial neural networks, algorithms inspired by the human brain, learn from large amounts of data. Similarly to how we learn from experience, the deep learning algorithm would perform a task repeatedly, each time tweaking it a little to improve the outcome. We refer to ‘deep learning’ because the neural networks have various (deep) layers that enable learning. Just about any problem that requires “thought” to figure out is a problem deep learning can learn to solve.
The amount of data we generate every day is staggering—currently estimated at 2.6 quintillion bytes—and it’s the resource that makes deep learning possible. Since deep-learning algorithms require a tonne of data to learn from, this increase in data creation is one reason that deep learning capabilities have grown in recent years. In addition to more data creation, deep learning algorithms benefit from the stronger computing power that’s available today as well as the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Service. AI as a Service has given smaller organisations access to artificial intelligence technology and specifically the AI algorithms required for deep learning without a large initial investment.
Deep learning allows machines to solve complex problems even when using a data set that is very diverse, unstructured and inter-connected. The more deep learning algorithms learn, the better they perform.
8 practical examples of deep learning
Now that we’re in a time when machines can learn to solve complex problems without human intervention, what exactly are the problems they are tackling? Here are just a few of the tasks that deep learning supports today and the list will just continue to grow as the algorithms continue to learn via the infusion of data.
1. Virtual assistants
Whether it’s Alexa or Siri or Cortana, the virtual assistants of online service providers use deep learning to help understand your speech and the language humans use when they interact with them.
In a similar way, deep learning algorithms can automatically translate between languages. This can be powerful for travellers, business people and those in government.
3. Vision for driverless delivery trucks, drones and autonomous cars
The way an autonomous vehicle understands the realities of the road and how to respond to them whether it’s a stop sign, a ball in the street or another vehicle is through deep learning algorithms. The more data the algorithms receive, the better they are able to act human-like in their information processing—knowing a stop sign covered with snow is still a stop sign.
4. Chatbots and service bots
Chatbots and service bots that provide customer service for a lot of companies are able to respond in an intelligent and helpful way to an increasing amount of auditory and text questions thanks to deep learning.
5. Image colorization
Transforming black-and-white images into colour was formerly a task done meticulously by human hand. Today, deep learning algorithms are able to use the context and objects in the images to colour them to basically recreate the black-and-white image in colour. The results are impressive and accurate.
6. Facial recognition
Deep learning is being used for facial recognition not only for security purposes but for tagging people on Facebook posts and we might be able to pay for items in a store just by using our faces in the near future. The challenges for deep-learning algorithms for facial recognition is knowing it’s the same person even when they have changed hairstyles, grown or shaved off a beard or if the image taken is poor due to bad lighting or an obstruction.
7. Medicine and pharmaceuticals
From disease and tumour diagnoses to personalised medicines created specifically for an individual’s genome, deep learning in the medical field has the attention of many of the largest pharmaceutical and medical companies.
8. Personalised shopping and entertainment
Ever wonder how Netflix comes up with suggestions for what you should watch next? Or where Amazon comes up with ideas for what you should buy next and those suggestions are exactly what you need but just never knew it before? Yep, it’s deep-learning algorithms at work.
The more experience deep-learning algorithms get, the better they become. It should be an extraordinary few years as the technology continues to mature.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.