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Definition: machine learning

An application of artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning systems "learn" about a subject by being fed a huge amount of data samples. The machine learning software, which is mostly implemented using a "neural network" architecture, keeps modifying its own data relationships in the training stages in order to improve the data recognition capability of the resulting AI that performs the actual processing. "Deep learning" is the most intense form of machine learning, which uses many layers of recognition. See deep learning and neural network.

Pattern Recognition and Virtual Assistants
Machine learning (ML) is used to develop pattern recognition systems (face, handwriting, voice, etc.) in many areas, including search engines, medical diagnosis, ad serving, spam filtering and sales forecasting. Today's virtual assistants are the result of both machine learning and "handcrafting," the latter providing predefined frameworks for responses.

Not Like Regular Programming
The final algorithm from multiple machine learning phases is generally much more difficult, if not impossible, to flow chart and debug than the routine "if this-do that" logic in regular data processing applications. As more samples become available and more fine tuning is applied, the resulting recognition system becomes more accurate. See AI and computer vision.

The Hierarchy
Machine learning (ML) is a subset of AI, and deep learning is a more elaborate form of ML.