Jan 102014
 

350px-IBM_Watson

Watson may have won Jeopardy, but the supercomputer’s real-world uses–in medicine, education, and beyond–are only now coming into play.

Terrell Jones, the founder of Travelocity and the founding chairman of Kayak.com, let the world in on a secret yesterday: “The guy that started the online travel revolution–me–I use travel agents.”

Not to book a flight to New York or anything, but to plan his perfect vacation. “You can’t get expert travel advice on the web. You can get reviews, but you can’t get advice,” he said at an event hosted by IBM.

That could be starting to change for a wide variety of industries as IBM moves Watson–the conversant supercomputer that famously won Jeopardy in 2011–into real-world applications and seeks to usher in what CEO Ginni Rometty describes as “a new era of machine-human collaboration”–like having a computer recommend you the perfect travel destination.

Yesterday, the company said it would pour more than $1 billion and almost 2,000 staff into a New York City division that will not only help people process the exploding amounts of information around them, but also think it through and make decisions. “It may, in fact, start to re-humanize the Internet,” Mike Rhodin, the chief of the newly formed Watson Group, says.

IBM is far from the only company pursuing a market for recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology. But Watson’s unique ability to learn as it goes and IBM’s track record working with businesses and governments means that its new commercial partners–from a top cancer research institute to banks and retailers, as well as the ecosystem of startups it is now courting with a $100 million investment fund–are at the forefront of a major shift in how we use our computers.

Here are some ways that “cognitive computing” programs like Watson, which since itsJeopardy days is now faster, smarter, and smaller (it takes up the space of three stacked pizza boxes, rather than an entire bedroom), could have an impact on how people and businesses interact with information:

Yesterday, the company said it would pour more than $1 billion and almost 2,000 staff into a New York City division that will not only help people process the exploding amounts of information around them, but also think it through and make decisions. “It may, in fact, start to re-humanize the Internet,” Mike Rhodin, the chief of the newly formed Watson Group, says.

IBM is far from the only company pursuing a market for recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology. But Watson’s unique ability to learn as it goes and IBM’s track record working with businesses and governments means that its new commercial partners–from a top cancer research institute to banks and retailers, as well as the ecosystem of startups it is now courting with a $100 million investment fund–are at the forefront of a major shift in how we use our computers.

Here are some ways that “cognitive computing” programs like Watson, which since itsJeopardy days is now faster, smarter, and smaller (it takes up the space of three stacked pizza boxes, rather than an entire bedroom), could have an impact on how people and businesses interact with information:

BE OUR REAL, EVERYDAY ASSISTANTS

Siri says she’s a smart assistant, but does anyone believe her?

Someone like Travelocity’s Jones would never ask Siri where he should take his family on an adventurous vacation. But that’s the goal of the next wave of natural language assistants powered by Watson. Jones showed how Watson could quickly read through 64 million reviews, 16 million blogs, and 7,000 guides to recommend with 97% confidence that a trip to Bali was the perfect trip for him. If he gave it additional information (say he wanted more than just a beach), it spit back Punta Cana. “That’s something you can’t ask any travel site today,” he says.

Other demos show this kind of interaction in realms beyond travel, such as creating personal shopping assistants and health coaches.

Read more . . .

via FastCoExist - JESSICA LEBER
 

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