10 Machine Learning Applications (+ Examples)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Machine learning is one of the most common forms of artificial intelligence. Discover some of the ways it’s being used today.

[Featured Image] A group of machine learning engineers stand around a computer, analyzing a machine learning application in the technology field.

Whether we realize it or not, most of us interact with machine learning almost daily. From personalized recommendations on streaming platforms to financial systems that automatically flag fraudulent transactions, there are countless ways AI is used in everyday life. 

The applications for machine learning are growing every day. In this article, you’ll learn more about machine learning and how humans use it. Afterward, you’ll explore some online, flexible courses that can help you gain the skills you need to start using machine learning yourself. 

What is machine learning? 

Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses models created from algorithms trained on data sets to perform relatively complex tasks that traditionally could only be performed by a human, such as making predictions or categorizing information. As a result, machine learning is one of the most ubiquitous forms of artificial intelligence used in the world today and accounts for many of the recent advances found in the goods and services that people use in their daily lives. 

Machine learning has impacted nearly every industry, and its adoption is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. According to research published on Statista in October 2023, the global market size for artificial intelligence is projected to reach nearly 2 trillion US dollars by 2030, or approximately twenty times its market size in 2021 [1]. 

The growing impact of AI and machine learning means that professionals capable of effectively working with them are often in high demand. This includes jobs like data scientists, machine learning engineers, AI engineers, and data engineers

Read more: Machine Learning vs. AI: Differences, Uses, and Benefits

10 real-world applications of machine learning 

Machine learning is everywhere. Yet, while you likely interact with it practically every day, you may not be aware of it. To help you get a better idea of how it’s used, here are 10 real-world applications of machine learning. 

1. Image recognition 

One of the most common uses of machine learning is for image recognition. To do it, data professionals train machine learning algorithms on data sets to produce models that are capable of recognizing and categorizing certain images. These models are used for a wide range of purposes, including identifying specific plants, landmarks, and even individuals from photographs. 

Some common applications that use machine learning for image recognition purposes include Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. 

2. Translation

Translation is a natural fit for machine learning. The large amount of written material available in digital formats effectively amounts to a massive data set that can be used to create machine learning models capable of translating texts from one language to another. Known as machine translation, there are many ways that AI professionals can create models capable of translation, including through the use of rule-based, statistical, and syntax-based models as well as neural networks and hybrid approaches. 

Some popular examples of machine translation include Google Translate, Amazon Translate, and Microsoft Translator. 

3. Fraud detection 

Financial institutions process millions of transactions daily. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, it can be difficult for them to know which are legitimate and which are fraudulent. 

As more and more people use online banking services and cashless payment methods, the number of fraudulent transactions has similarly risen. In fact, according to a 2023 report from TransUnion, the number of digital fraud attempts in the US rose a staggering 122 percent between 2019 and 2022 [2]. 

AI can help financial institutions detect potentially fraudulent transactions and save consumers from false charges by flagging those that seem suspicious or out of the ordinary. Mastercard, for example, uses AI to both flag potential scams in real time and even predict some before they happen to protect consumers from theft in certain situations. 

4. Chatbots 

Effective communication is a key requirement of almost all businesses operating today. Whether they’re helping customers troubleshoot problems or identifying the best products for their unique needs, many organizations rely on customer support to ensure that their clients get the help they need.

The costliness of supporting a well-trained workforce of customer support specialists, however, can make it difficult for many organizations to provide their customers with the resources they require. As a result, many customer support specialists may find their schedules inefficiently packed with customers who face a wide range of needs – from those that can be easily in a matter of minutes to those that require additional time. 

AI-powered chatbots can provide organizations with the additional support they need by assisting customers with the most basic needs. Using natural language processing, these chatbots are capable of responding to consumers' unique queries and directing them to the appropriate resources, so that customer support specialists can provide assistance to those with the trickiest of needs. 

5. Generate text, images, and videos 

Generative AI is capable of quickly producing original content, such as text, images, and video, with simple prompts. In effect, many organizations and individuals use generative AI like ChatGPT and DALL-E for a wide range of reasons, including to create web copy, design visuals, or even produce promotional videos. 

Yet, while generative AI can produce many impressive results, it also has the potential to produce material with false or misleading claims. If you’re using generative AI for your work, consequently, it’s advised that you provide an appropriate level of scrutiny to it before releasing it to the wider public. 

Read more: What Is ChatGPT? (and How to Use It)

Coursera Plus
Build job-ready skills with a Coursera Plus subscription
  • Get access to 7,000+ learning programs from world-class universities and companies, including Google, Yale, Salesforce, and more
  • Try different courses and find your best fit at no additional cost
  • Earn certificates for learning programs you complete
  • A subscription price of $59/month, cancel anytime

6. Speech recognition 

Whether you’re driving a car, kneading dough, or going for a long run, it’s sometimes just easier to operate a smart device with your voice than it is to stop and use your hands to input commands. Machine learning makes it possible for many smart devices to recognize speech when prompted by users, so that they can complete tasks without directly interacting with the device for such purposes as calling a friend, setting a time, or searching for a specific show on a streaming service. 

Today, speech recognition is a relatively common feature of many widely-available smart devices like Google's Nest speakers and Amazon’s Blink home security system. 

7. Self-driving cars 

Perhaps one of the more “futuristic” technological advancements in recent years has been the development of self-driving cars. While such a concept was once considered science fiction, today there are several commercially available cars with semi-autonomous driving features, such as Tesla’s Model S and BMW’s X5. Manufacturers are hard at work to make fully autonomous cars a reality for commuters over the next decade. 

The dynamics of creating a self-driving car are complex – and indeed still being developed – but they’re primarily reliant on machine learning and computer vision to function. As the car drives from one place to another, it uses computer vision to survey its environment and machine learning algorithms to make decisions on the go. 

8. AI personal assistants

Everyone could use a bit of extra help. That’s why many smart devices come equipped with AI personal assistants to assist users with common tasks like scheduling appointments, calling a contact, or taking notes. Whether people realize it or not, whenever they use Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to complete these kinds of tasks, they’re taking advantage of machine learning-powered software. 

9. Recommendations 

Businesses and marketers spend a significant amount of resources trying to connect consumers with the right products at the right time. After all, if they can show customers the kinds of products or content that meet their needs at the precise moment they need them, they’re more likely to make a purchase – or to simply stay on their platform. 

In the past, sales representatives at brick-and-mortar stores would be best equipped to match consumers with the kinds of products they’d be interested in. However, as online and digital shopping become the norm, organizations need to be able to provide the same level of guidance for internet users. 

To do it, modern online retailers and streaming platforms use recommendation engines that produce personalized results for consumers based on such information as their geographic location and previous purchases. Some common platforms that use machine learning-based recommendation engines include Amazon, Netflix, and Instagram. 

10. Detect medical conditions 

The health care industry is awash in data. From electronic health records to diagnostic images, health facilities are repositories of valuable medical data that can be used to train machine learning algorithms in order to diagnose medical conditions. In fact, while some researchers are already using machine learning to identify cancerous growths in medical scans, others are using it to create software that can help health care professionals make more accurate diagnoses.  

Read more: Digital Health Explained: Why It Matters and What to Know

Learn more about machine learning on Coursera

As machine learning becomes more widely adopted, so too do its applications. Learn more about machine learning and its many uses with an AI-centric course or specialization on Coursera. 

In DeepLearning.AI’s Generative AI for Everyone course, you’ll learn how to use generative AI tools, how they’re made, and how they can help you increase your productivity. 

In Stanford and DeepLearning.AI’s Machine Learning Specialization, meanwhile, you’ll learn how to build machine learning models capable of both prediction and binary classification tasks. Master fundamental AI concepts and develop practical machine learning skills in as little as two months in this three-course program from AI visionary Andrew Ng. 

Article sources


Statista. “Artificial intelligence (AI) market size worldwide in 2021 with a forecast until 2030, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1365145/artificial-intelligence-market-size/.” Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.