The need

Today’s standard approach for machine learning is to provide machines with a lot of data and expect them to learn associations or find patterns on their own. However, the desire to use AI for more scenarios has grown.

The idea

For these scenarios, use subject matter experts to break a problem into easier tasks and give machine learning models important clues about how to find a solution faster – similar to the concept of lesson plans.

The solution

Microsoft scientists and product developers have pioneered this technique, called machine teaching, which seeks to gain knowledge from people rather than extracting knowledge from data alone.

Technical details for machine teaching

With machine teaching, systems attain knowledge from people in addition to data. An expert for a specific task provides a limited number of examples for each step in the process. These examples serve as lesson plans to help machine learning algorithms complete the task, adapting their approach as needed.

Explore these interactive demos for a closer look at machine teaching in action:

  • Smart Buildings: HVAC systems comprise most of commercial energy consumption. Traditional controls struggle to save energy and keep CO2 levels safe while keeping occupants comfortable. This demo is about reducing energy consumption while maintaining occupant comfort and CO2 safety in a conference room.
  • Machine Calibration: CNC machines cut metal with spinning tools. Friction reduces precision and periodically demands recalibration. An expert operator must travel to calibrate the machine, repeatedly turn the knobs and take measurements until the machine regains precision. This demo focuses on calibrating a CNC machine faster and more precisely than expert operators.
  • Motion Control: Motion control automates machines, or parts of machines, like oil rigs that drill horizontally underground. An operator controls the underground drill with a joystick to keep the drill inside oil shale while avoiding obstacles. This demo shows how to automate control of a horizontal oil drill according to a predefined drilling plan.


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