Machine Learning

September 30, 2016

…and What It Means to You

If you happen to follow any technology- or web-related news sources, you may have heard a thing or two about Google’s ‘G Suite.’ Perhaps you’ve heard about machine learning regardless. For those unaware, a brief definition, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica:

Machine Learning [is a] discipline concerned with the implementation of computer software that can learn autonomously.

Machine Learning, britannica.com

And now, a rough explanation of that definition: Machine Learning is something that happens when software allows for pattern recognition, meaning that, as a program runs, the machine running it will store data that correlates to specific patterns. The more sophisticated the software, the more patterns the machine can recognize – to the point that the machine may be able to pick up new patterns on its own, and figure out what they mean based on correlating data. (Whew.)

Long story short, machine learning is a step toward artificial intelligence.

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Imagine that Machine Learning is like providing a reference library to computers, that they can actually add content to.

Let’s get back to Google, though, and how their implementation of Machine Learning will affect you (because it probably will):

  1. Google Drive is getting a new feature called Quick Access, which boasts that it will “shave 50% off the average time” spent searching for relevant files in the file hosting application. This is courtesy of Machine Learning – by recognizing which files you’ve opened recently, as well as knowing which files you open periodically, Google Drive will be able to serve up files it deems relevant to your work first.
  2. Google Calendar is getting a few features that will help you save time on scheduling meetings. By comparing your calendar with the calendars of individuals you may need to have a meeting with, it will automatically suggest times at which all parties are available. As an added bonus, it will also recommend meeting places based on your own personal location, past meeting places, and location preferences.
  3. A slightly older feature now, Explore in Google Sheets is getting a couple of additions:
    1. First up, Natural Language Processing is being added in, meaning that you can explore and visualize data with natural syntax, as opposed to writing out algorithms or spreadsheet functions. This, courtesy of Machine Learning, of course.
    2. Second, Explore is actually being extended to Docs and Presentations, as well – serving up relevant research sources and topics, as well as images for use in your documents. Presentations is getting a layout helper, which will help organize the information on your slides to be more readable and overall more polished-looking.

A note worth adding: Machine Learning is an exciting topic, (even if you aren’t a geek), one that can spark debates about its application, as well as its efficiency. Keep in mind that these features are something that will likely get better with time – the more data and patterns that the tools have recognized, the better the predictions they can serve in the future. Early adoption may not be the best option for everyone.

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

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