What is Unsupervised Learning? What Benefits Does it Offer?

What is Unsupervised Learning? What Benefits Does it Offer? | Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning | Emeritus

Supervised and unsupervised learning algorithms are two fundamental subcategories of Machine Learning (ML). While we become familiar with them early in our journey into data science, it still remains difficult to completely grasp their distinctions, applications, and methods for approaching them. In this article, we’ll dig deeper to understand what is unsupervised learning and how different it is from supervised learning. 

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What is Unsupervised Learning?

Commonly referred to as unsupervised machine learning, analyzes and groups unlabeled datasets using machine learning algorithms. These algorithms identify hidden patterns or data clusters without human assistance.

Examples of Unsupervised Learning

  • Customer segmentation: Identifying distinct client groups around which one can develop marketing or other company tactics
  • Genetics: Using DNA pattern clustering to study evolutionary biology
  • Recommender systems: Combining individuals with comparable viewing habits to recommend material similar to that content
  • Fraud detection: Identifying faulty mechanical components (i.e., predictive maintenance)

ALSO READ: 4 Types of Machine Learning and How to Build a Great Career in Each

Unsupervised Learning Algorithms

  • K-means clustering
  • KNN (k-nearest learning)
  • Hierarchical clustering
  • Anomaly detection
  • Neural networks
  • Principal component analysis
  • Independent component analysis
  • Apriori algorithm
  • Single value decomposition

Types of Unsupervised Learning 

To understand what is unsupervised learning, we need to learn its two types: clustering and association.

Robotics Essentials at MIT xPROClustering

The act of combining comparable elements is known as “clustering”. This kind of machine learning looks for patterns in data points and groups them together. Similar items can be grouped together to help in profiling various groups. This helps us understand the fundamental tendencies that underlie various communities. Grouping unlabeled data has several uses, including the ability to identify different client groups or segments and promote each group in a distinctive way to increase sales. 


Association rule learning looks for relationships between data items and maps them appropriately for increased profitability. It also uses several rules to look for any intriguing relationships or correlations between the variables of the dataset. Association rule learning—one of the key ideas of machine learning—is used in continuous manufacturing, web usage mining, market basket research, and other applications. Here, market basket analysis is a method used by many large retailers to determine the relationships between various goods.

ALSO READ: What is a Machine Learning Model? How is it Helpful?

Unsupervised Learning Applications

  • Data exploration
  • Customer segmentation
  • Recommender systems
  • Target marketing campaigns
  • Data preparation and visualization

How Unsupervised Learning Works

It analyzes unlabeled, uncategorized data to discover hidden structures. Big data is needed for such machine learning. The same is typically true for supervised learning as the model improves with more samples. Data scientists train the algorithms using training datasets to start the unsupervised learning process. These datasets contain unlabeled and uncategorized data points. 

Unsupervised learning, in simple words, is how humans learn to classify and recognize objects. Imagine you’ve never tasted ketchup or chili sauce: You would still be able to distinguish between the two if you were given “unlabeled” bottles of each and asked to taste them. Even if you don’t know the names of each sauce, you’ll be able to recognize their distinct characteristics (one is sweet, the other spicy) and go on to categorize meals based on the sauce they include.

Difference Between Supervised & Unsupervised Learning

Supervised Learning Unsupervised Learning
The use of labeled datasets distinguishes this ML strategy. Unlabeled data sets are examined and grouped in this ML algorithm. 
When using data mining, supervised learning may be divided into two categories: classification and regression. Clustering, association, and dimensionality reduction are the three basic tasks that models utilize.
The objective of supervised learning is to forecast results for fresh data. The kind of outcome you anticipate is known upfront. The objective of such an algorithm is to derive insights from massive amounts of fresh data. What is unique or interesting about the dataset is that the ML algorithm itself decides it.
Supervised learning models are perfect for spam identification, sentiment analysis, weather forecasting, and price forecasts. Anomaly detection, recommendation engines, customer personas, and medical imaging are all excellent applications.
Supervised learning is a straightforward machine learning technique. It is commonly computed using tools like R or Python. When working with a lot of unclassified data, you need strong tools.  models require a large training set in order to yield the desired results, making them computationally demanding.

Challenges of Unsupervised Learning


We must judge the model’s performance using arbitrary criteria because we don’t know the data’s actual structure or even how many clusters there are.


The outcomes could be challenging to understand or perhaps useless.

Goal Alignment is Tough

The produced representation might not match the application’s requirements.

Bottom Line

Whether you choose supervised or unsupervised machine learning, it all depends on the framework’s intended aims. We hope this blog has helped you understand what is unsupervised learning, and whetted your interest in learning more about this important tech advancement. To dive deeper into this and related subjects, explore Emeritus’ online courses on machine learning and AI, and perhaps build a career in this field.

By Siddhesh Shinde

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

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Manasa is the content ninja that every brand needs. Apart from being an expert in tech-related trends and digital marketing, she has found her calling in edtech. Her 10-year-long tryst with education started with a teaching fellowship for underprivileged children, followed by a stint as an edupreneur. It gave her the perspective she now uses to create impactful content for Emeritus. Manasa loves the life of a digital nomad that allows her to travel and hopes her reels go viral on the Gram.
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