Google (News - Alert) is known for being the company that is swallowing the entire Internet. In most developed (and, to some extent, developing) countries, you'd have trouble finding a household without one of their products sitting on a desk or opened in a browser. This is a testament to the company's heritage of innovation and strength through out-of-the-box thinking. And the company's modus operandi is one of the reasons it doesn't need enormous teams to get things done. The head of Google Research, Corinna Cortes, said that Google's speech recognition team, also known as its “machine learning department,” is “comparable to a small computer science department” as part of her speech at the Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology.
She, like many others with foresight, has concluded that machine learning is perhaps one of the greatest goals of computing technology in the present.
By definition, machine learning is a process by which systems can “learn” different things from the analysis of data with little or no human direction. One of the most rudimentary examples of this kind of concept is the ability to sort between spam and non-spam messages in an inbox. It's also an area where Google and many other top email providers have excelled. Other, perhaps more intriguing, examples would be optical character recognition, facial recognition, stock market analysis, and speech recognition.
“There is basically no limit to what we can do with machine learning,” said Cortes. “Say that we make speech recognition even better than it is today. Five years from now we would have this conversation seamlessly in our native tongues while a small device would translate our discussion simultaneously.”
What Cortes describes is already being developed in many labs around the world. Google isn't the only pioneer in such a technology, but it seems to be well on its way.