Loren on the Art of MATLAB

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Ever Need to Explain… Machine Learning in a Nutshell?

Posted by Loren Shure,

Ever Need to Explain... Machine Learning in a Nutshell?

Do you ever need to explain something to others unfamiliar with your work what it's about? One situation I frequently face is explaining machine learning to audiences who want to learn more about it but are not yet particularly conversant in it. This is regardless of the audience, be they students, professors, researchers, or folks working in government and industry as scientists and engineers. So, what do I do?

A few years ago I wanted to find a way to explain machine learning in a way that would make it understandable and fun. I came up with an explanation that illustrates what's going on in machine learning without any of the mathematical details.

Most people I know learned regression somewhere along the way, often in a stats class, or perhaps they were exposed to clustering and classification using the famous Fisher Iris dataset (here are our classification and clustering examples). I tried this approach a few times and, as much as I like flowers and sepal length and petal width, I thought I could do better to make machine learning concepts easier to grasp.

I came up with an idea of using animals. Who doesn’t like dogs, cats, and birds, or at least some of these? Well it worked out well and over the last couple years I’ve showed this over a hundred times and always get positive feedback from the audience. A few months ago some colleagues asked me what I was showing customers these days. When I described my animal story they were pretty excited and thought I should record a video to help others understand this machine learning area that everyone seems to want to know more about.

Well, to cut to the chase

(spoiler alert: a cheetah is the regression winner), you can now watch the video.

Does This Explanation Help?

Did you find this explanation useful, either for yourself, or to pass along to others? What other concepts have you needed to "illustrate"? Let me know here.

Get the MATLAB code

Published with MATLAB® R2018b


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