Monday, February 14, 2011

IBM’s Watson

I received this email today, and thought I would pass it along.  It had some links of interest if you intend to follow Watson as it competes on Jeopardy.

IBM's Watson

A computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions

Dear Business Partner,

As you may know, a team of IBM mathematicians and computer scientists have worked for the past four years on a new technology, one capable of transforming business and society. This has enormous implications for you as a Business Partner and represents an opportunity to incorporate this exciting technology in new solutions and applications for our mutual clients.

The IBM Researchers set out to accomplish a grand challenge - build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The results are a computing system named Watson which will compete on the U.S.-based TV game show Jeopardy! against the show's two most successful human contestants on February 14, 15 and 16.

Jeopardy! provides the ultimate challenge because the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. Watson's ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, and then rapidly process information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives.

Watson's Question Answering (QA) technology enables the system to analyze massive amounts of data and will help people rapidly find specific answers to complex questions. The technology could be applied to health care for assistance in accurately diagnosing patients, to improving online self-service help desks, providing tourists and citizens with specific information regarding cities, and much more. You may want to learn more about the initiative by watching this introductory video.

Crucial to the project are eight universities that are collaborating with IBM Researchers to advance the QA technology behind the Watson computing system. The Open Advancement of Question Answering Initiative, established in 2008 by IBM and Carnegie Mellon University, aims to provide a foundational architecture and methodology for accelerating collaborative research in automatic question answering.

Win or lose, IBM's Watson represents a big step in shifting the way we look at computers from today's "calculators" to "machines that learn." Watson is a powerful demonstration that the era of learning systems is indeed upon us, where computing will go beyond increased storage, better search and more complex analytics to systems that help humanity reach its greatest potential for human creativity, innovation and ingenuity.

At IBM we look forward to working with you to find creative ways to apply this exciting technology to new business opportunities. Don't hesitate to contact us for more information, or to discuss ways we can apply the technology we've developed in Watson to pivotal issues in your industry.


Jim Corgel                                         Claudia Fan Munce
General Manager                                Managing Director, IBM Venture Capital Group
IBM ISVs and Developer Relations       Vice President, IBM Corporate Strategy

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