Few-shot learning (definition, application)

Machine Learning

Few-shot learning is a subfield of machine learning and deep learning that aims to teach AI models how to learn from only a small number of labeled training data. The goal of few-shot learning is to allow the model to generalize to new unseen data samples based on a small number of samples given during the training process.

How does Few-Shot Learning work?

Few-shot learning generally involves training a model on a series of tasks. Each task consists of a small number of labeled samples. Train a model to recognize patterns in your data and learn how to use this knowledge.

One of the challenges of traditional machine learning is the fact that training models require large amounts of training data with labeled training examples. By training on large datasets, machine learning models can generalize to new unseen data samples. However, in many real-world scenarios, obtaining large amounts of labeled data can be very difficult, expensive, time consuming, or all of the above. This is where a few-shot learning comes into play. Few-shot learning allows machine learning models to learn from only a few labeled data samples.

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Why Few-Shot Learning Is Important

One reason few-shot learning is important is that it makes it feasible to develop machine learning models in real-world environments. In many real-world scenarios, it can be difficult to obtain large data sets that can be used to train machine learning models. Learning on a smaller training data set can significantly reduce the cost and effort required to train a machine learning model. Few-shot learning makes this possible because the model can only learn from a small amount of data.

Few-shot learning also enables the development of more flexible and adaptable machine learning systems. Traditional machine learning algorithms are typically designed to perform well on a specific task and trained on huge data sets containing large numbers of labeled examples. This means that the algorithm may not generalize well to new, unseen data, or perform poorly on tasks significantly different from those it was trained on.

Few-shot learning solves this challenge by allowing machine learning models to learn how to learn and quickly adapt to new tasks based on a small number of labeled examples. As a result, the model is more flexible and adaptable.

Few-shot training of a neural network that recognizes images of cats and names them cats
Neural networks learn by taking large amounts of data as input. For example, in image recognition, the network receives a large number of images as input data. | | Image: Shutterstock

Few-shot learning has many potential applications in areas such as computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), and robotics. For example, few-shot learning in robotics allows robots to quickly learn new tasks based on just a few examples. Natural language processing allows language models to learn new languages ​​and dialects better with minimal training data..

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Few Shot Learning: Basic Concepts. | | Video: Shusen Wang

Approach to Few Shot Learning

Few-shot learning has become a promising approach to solving problems with limited data. Here we present three of the most promising approaches for few-shot learning.


Meta-learning, also known as learning to learn, trains a model to learn the underlying structure (or meta-knowledge) of a task. Meta-learning has shown promising results on few-shot learning tasks, where models are trained on a set of tasks and learn to generalize to new tasks by learning a small sample of data. During the meta-learning process, you can train the model using a meta-learning algorithm such as model-independent meta-learning (MALM) or using a prototype network.

data augmentation

Data augmentation is the technique of applying various transformations to an existing training data set to create new training data samples. One of the main advantages of this approach is that it can improve the generalization of machine learning models for many computer vision tasks, including few-shot learning.

For computer vision tasks, data augmentation includes techniques such as rotation, flipping, scaling, and color jittering of existing images to generate additional image samples for each class. Then add these additional images to the existing dataset. This can be used to train few-shot learning models.

generative model

Generative models such as Variational Autoencoders (VAEs) and Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have shown promising results for few-shot learning. These models can generate new data points that resemble the training data.

In the context of few-shot learning, generative models can be used to augment existing data with additional examples. The model does this by generating new examples that resemble some of the available labeled examples. Generative models can also be used to generate new class examples that are not present in the training data. By doing so, generative models help extend the dataset for training and improve the performance of few-shot learning algorithms.

Few-shot learning application

computer vision

In computer vision, few-shot learning can be applied to image classification tasks where the goal is to classify images into different categories. In this example, few-shot learning can be used to train a machine learning model to classify images with a limited amount of labeled data. Labeled data refers to a set of images with corresponding labels that indicate the category or class to which each image belongs. In computer vision, obtaining large amounts of labeled data is often difficult. For this reason, few-shot learning can be useful because machine learning models can learn on less labeled data.

natural language processing

Few-shot learning can be applied to various NLP tasks such as text classification, sentiment analysis, and language translation. For example, in text classification, a few-shot learning algorithm can learn to classify text into different categories with just a few labeled text examples. This approach is particularly useful for tasks in the areas of spam detection, topic classification, and sentiment analysis.

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In robotics, few-shot learning can be applied to tasks such as object manipulation and motion planning. Few-shot learning allows robots to learn to manipulate objects and plan movement trajectories using a small amount of training data. For robotics, training data typically consists of demonstrations or sensor data.

medical imaging

In medical imaging, learning from small exposures can be used to train machine learning models for medical imaging tasks such as tumor segmentation and disease classification. In medicine, the number of available images is usually limited due to strict legal regulations regarding medical information and data protection laws. As a result, less data is available for training machine learning models. Few-shot learning solves this problem because machine learning models can successfully learn to perform the aforementioned tasks on limited datasets.

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