Siri, Alexa, and Cortana – The rapid development of Machine Learning

We spoke to Dr. Debashis Guha, Director of Machine Learning Program about recent industry trends. Here are some excerpts of Machine Learning from the interview –

Q. Can you tell us a little about the current trends in the Machine Learning space?

Probably the biggest trend in Machine Learning is the application of distributed learning methods to learn very large datasets, and especially large streaming datasets. Datasets are expanding rapidly in size, and new methods are being developed to keep up with this growth in size.

Another trending field is “deep learning”, the technique of using neural networks with many hidden layers, using gradient and reinforcement learning. Deep learning is used in many practical applications such as machine translation, image comprehension, and scientific discovery.

A very important application of machine learning that has attracted a lot of attention recently is digital personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now. This technology, colloquially known as “bots”, is developing rapidly, and represents a very important application of Machine Learning techniques.

Another major area that is expanding rapidly is the application of Machine Learning to internet enabled appliances, i.e., the Internet of Things.

Q. How do you predict Machine Learning to change the status quo in the current workplace?

The advent of Machine Learning will mean that quantitative, data-based decision making can be extended to more and more functions in the workplace. For instance, HR decisions such as hiring, promotions, and terminations will become data-driven and learning-enabled. Marketing, already a very data-driven function, will become almost fully automated using learning. Production and logistics will become almost fully automated and carried out by AI enabled robots. Even corporate strategy is likely to acquire a substantial data-driven and learning component.

Q. What other Schools around the world offer similar programs?

Several top-tier schools in the U.S.A and other countries offer programs in high technology, especially machine learning, and AI. Carnegie-Mellon is probably the world leader and has an entire department of Machine Learning. Some of the other top Machine Learning programs are: Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, and MIT. Other good programs are at UC San Diego, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and ETH Zurich. In India, IIT-Bombay has a strong Machine Learning faculty and offers courses in this area. However, these are mostly four-semester Master’s programs, or single courses. I do not know of any six-month intensive training Certificate Programs like ours.

Q. What are the career opportunities that are available or likely to be needed in this sphere of work?

The demand-supply gap in Machine Learning skills is still rising as industry rapidly expands its use of analytics. McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) forecasts a 50 to 60 percent gap between the supply and demand of people with deep analytical talent. The projected supply of analytics experts in 2018 is 285,000, with an expected demand of 425,000 to 475,000 jobs. MGI expects that some of the skills that will be in high demand are advanced training in statistics or machine learning, as well as the ability to analyze large data sets.

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