This month on R.Science we’re talking about machine learning- a field of science and a powerful technology that allows machines to learn from data and self-improve. It’s technology that’s already used widely in spam filters and search engines. Any one who uses Netflix will be familiar Netflix recommendations- that system uses machine learning too! But the challenges and opportunities this technology raises are huge- it could revolutionise the transport industry with driverless cars and help doctors make diagnoses based on huge amounts of data that humans couldn’t quickly sort through alone.

The Royal Society has stared a new project on machine learning with a group of experts, aiming to stimulate a debate, to increase awareness and demonstrate the potential of machine learning and highlight the opportunities and challenges it presents. In the course of the project we will engage with policymakers, academia, industry and the wider public. In this R. Science episode we talk to academics and researchers working on real applications for machine learning to find out more.

1.20 Dr Sabine Hauert, member of the Royal Society’s Machine Learning working group and robotics researcher from Bristol explains what machine learning is and how it could change the world.

05.30 We hear from researchers who presented their machine learning software at our event, Machines that learn: how computers got smart. Among the researchers we spoke to were a team using data from people living in London to look at the city in another way and from researcher who has programmed a system that is learning to write unique poetry.

We held a conference last year on machine learning and the interaction of academia and industry, Breakthrough science and technologies: Transforming our future conference series. We spoke to some of the speakers there about their work with machine learning. Here we hear from Dr Robert Ghanea-Hercock, a Chief Research Scientist in the British Telecommunications Security Research Practice and member of the Royal Society’s Science, Industry and Translation committee, Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England, and Miranda Mowbray, Hewlett Packard labs.

Listen to this episode.