What is Synthetic Data?

January 1st, 2023

One of the challenges of building machine learning models is the need for large amounts of labeled training data. However, collecting and labeling real-world data can be time-consuming and expensive. Synthetic data can be used as a substitute for real-world data in these cases, allowing machine learning models to be trained more efficiently.

Synthetic data is essentially artificially generated data that is designed to mimic real-world data. It is created by using different algorithms that mirror the statistical properties of the original data.

One application of synthetic data in machine learning is the generation of realistic images for training image recognition models. These models are used in a variety of applications, including self-driving cars and facial recognition systems. Generating synthetic images can be much faster and cheaper than collecting real-world images, and it also allows for greater control over the types of images that are used for training.

In the case of image recognition models for self-driving cars, these models are used to interpret the visual data collected by the self-driving car's sensors, such as cameras and lidar. In order to train these models, large amounts of labeled images are needed, showing different types of objects and environments that the car might encounter. To create these synthetic images, algorithms can be used to generate 3D models of objects and environments, and then render these models as 2D images from different viewpoints. These synthetic images can be labeled with the appropriate class labels (e.g. pedestrian, vehicle, road, etc.), and then used to train image recognition models.

Another application of synthetic data is in the field of privacy and security. In many cases, it is not possible or ethical to share real-world data for training or testing purposes. Synthetic data can be used as a substitute in these cases, allowing organizations to develop and test their systems without compromising sensitive information. One example is in the field of healthcare. In many cases, it is necessary to share medical data with researchers or other healthcare providers in order to improve patient care and advance medical knowledge. However, sharing real-world data can pose risks to patient privacy, as sensitive personal information may be exposed.

To address this issue, synthetic data can be used to create realistic, but fictional, medical records that can be shared for research and analysis purposes. These synthetic records can include all of the relevant information that would be included in real-world records, such as patient demographics, diagnoses, and treatment history, but without exposing any sensitive personal information.

Join our upcoming live course on Synthetic Data with Dr. Vincent Granville here.