Google will teach you about AI and machine learning for free

learn with google ai Google

  • Google created a new site that it hopes will be a hub of information for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • On the site is a crash course on the two subjects, that Google initially developed for its employees.
  • In the future, the company hopes the site will expand with more courses and information, all free for everyone.

These days, you can’t open a tech blog without seeing headlines about artificial intelligence and machine learning (there is a difference). Google knows that many folks don’t have a clue how these technologies work, even people in technology industries where AI and machine learning are going to be incredibly useful, such as app development.

To combat this, Google launched a new site called Learn with Google AI. This information hub will be a place where people can “learn about core ML concepts, develop and hone your ML skills, and apply ML to real-world problems.” The site is technical in nature, but it is intended to be a resource for everyone, from advanced researchers to total beginners.

But the crown jewel of the site is the Machine Learning Crash Course. When Google first started pursuing ML/AI technologies, it created the MLCC as an internal resource for its employees. Now the company has posted the entire, 15-hour course online for free, available for anyone to take.

Editor's Pick

Google emphasizes that the course can be taken and understood by anyone, but to really get the most out of it you should understand intro-level algebra and have some basic programming ability. If you find yourself lacking in the programming department, might we suggest you check this out?

This is only the beginning of what the Learning with Google AI site has in store. The company hopes to add more courses like the MLCC to the site in the future, creating a central repository for ML/AI education.

“AI can solve complex problems and has the potential to transform entire industries, which means it’s crucial that AI reflect a diverse range of human perspectives and needs,” says Google’s Zuri Kemp. “That’s why part of Google AI’s mission is to help anyone interested in machine learning succeed.”

A smartphone drove our car, and we lived to tell the tale

It’s an unusually cold morning in Barcelona and, together with two of my colleagues, I’m shivering in an empty parking lot outside the city’s legendary Camp Nou.

We’re waiting for our ride, a Porsche Panamera. Not bad from a bunch of humble Android bloggers, right? Alas, we’re not here for a joyride. We’ve actually come to see Huawei’s RoadReader project, probably the coolest application of AI at this year’s MWC. (Admittedly, the bar for cool AI applications was pretty low.)

With RoadReader, Huawei wanted to showcase the AI prowess of its Mate 10 Pro smartphone and the Kirin 970 processor inside it. Put simply, the company turned a phone into the brains of a robotic Panamera. 

Editor's Pick

There are caveats. We’re not offered an autonomous tour around the Camp Nou. We’re not even getting a ride around the parking lot. Instead, Huawei set up a short, straight test track designed to showcase the phone’s ability to identify and react to obstacles using AI.

A fair bit of additional hardware is required to make the magic happen. Mounted on top of the limousine, a modified bag carrier houses a high-end Sony DSLR and a Teradek Bolt 3000 wireless video transceiver (catalog price: $10,490), which act as the eyes feeding images into the Mate 10 Pro’s brain. The trunk is also packed with robotic equipment that converts the input from the Mate 10 Pro into commands for the car.

After the team solves a glitch with the custom app running RoadReader, we’re finally ready to put our lives into the virtual hands of an Android smartphone. There’s a safety driver behind the wheel, and a big red button mounted on the Panamera’s center console lets us stop the car in case things go awry. But I still feel a little anxious, and the fact that we had to sign waivers absolving Huawei of any liability did not help.

There are two phases to the demo. In the first one, the car slowly makes its way down the test track looking for – and learning – the objects it needs to avoid. Huawei tested the system with hundreds of objects, but for the demo, it settled on cardboard cutouts showing a bicycle, an oversized soccer ball, and a dog.

After the slow run, it’s time for the real deal. First, we tell the phone what evasive action it should take for each obstacle: swerve to the left, swerve to the right, or simply brake.

A couple more taps on the screen and we barrel down the track. The phone is driving.

It’s all over in a few seconds. The car, or more accurately, the phone, performed just as I instructed it to, taking a hard swerve to the right to avoid the cardboard dog attendants rolled out on the track. The dog is unscathed, the car is in one piece, and the Android bloggers inside breathe a sigh of relief.

While Huawei’s test may sound a bit underwhelming, it’s still a cool thing to experience. In part, it’s thanks to the physical sensation of accelerating in a powerful car. But I also appreciated what Huawei was able to do in just five weeks with a consumer device that 90 percent of users will only ever use for Facebook and YouTube.

The Mate 10 Pro can run complex machine learning operations and can do it fast enough to control a hunk of metal moving at more than 50 kmph. Multiple times a second, the device extracts still frames from the video feed it receives from the roof-mounted camera. It then runs image recognition algorithms on each frame, looking for potential obstacles on the road. As soon as an obstacle is detected, the phone tells the car to maneuver itself out of harm’s way.

Editor's Pick

The system harnesses the NPU inside the Kirin 970 processor, and Google’s TensorFlow library of machine learning tools. It all happens locally and on-the-fly. It’s a good example of what developers can do with these tools and other AI platforms. It’s definitely more exciting than the other AI application that Huawei can show for now – a live translation app developed by Microsoft.

Artificial Intelligence has become a major buzzword in the mobile industry – companies are taking advantage of the vagueness of the term to slap it on features that have nothing to do with machine learning. AI is also highly technical and, let’s face it, difficult to understand and boring for most people. It’s good to see Huawei attempt to demonstrate the concept with a real-world application we can all relate to.

Peter Gauden, a marketing chief with Huawei, was quick to clarify that what we saw in Barcelona was just a cool concept that should not be taken as a suggestion that Huawei is entering the red-hot autonomous driving market. But Gauden also pointed out that Huawei owns the full stack, from the AI-optimized silicon, to popular consumer devices, software prowess, and cutting-edge telecom infrastructure. In other words – and this is entirely speculation – if Huawei would ever decide to try its hand at self-driving tech or any other application of AI, it would be better positioned than most companies out there.