As clever as learning computers may be, they only have as much potential as their software. What if you don't have the know-how to program one of these smart systems yourself? That's where Microsoft Research thinks it can help: it's developing a machine teaching tool that will let most anyone show computers how to learn. So long as you're knowledgeable about your field, you'd just have to plug in the right parameters. A chef could tell a computer how to create tasty recipes, for example, while a doctor could get software to sift through medical records and find data relevant to a new patient.
The technology is still young, but it's already being used in an invitation-only beta that helps apps understand what people are saying using natural language. Ultimately, Microsoft believes that it can "democratize" machine learning. It wants you to call on artificial intelligence to solve everyday problems, not just the sort you'd find at a technology giant.