IBM’s Watson and the Web

What is Watson?

IBM’s Watson is a technology that marks the next step in human computer evolution, it is a system that learns from our successes and failures and adapts to our behavioural patterns and how we choose to interact with it.

As described:
“As a Cognitive Technology, Watson is a natural extension of what humans can do at their best”.

What can it do?

Natural Language
Watson can read and understand natural language, important in analysing unstructured data that make up as much as 80 percent of data today.

Hypothesis Generation & Evaluation
When asked a question Watson relies on hypothesis generation and evaluation to rapidly parse relevant evidence and evaluate responses from disparate data.

Dynamic Learning
Through repeated use, Watson gets smarter by tracking feedback from its users and learning from both successes and failures.

What does this mean for us?

“A more natural relationship between the human and the computer”
Watson represents a first step into cognitive systems, a new era of computing. It uses programmatic computing plus the combination of three additional capabilities that make Watson truly unique: natural language processing, hypothesis generation and evaluation, and dynamic learning.

While none of these capabilities is unique to Watson by itself, the combination delivers the power to move beyond programmatic computing and unlock the world of global, unstructured data.

Watson technology has enabled us to move from a keyword-based search that provides a list of locations, to an intuitive, conversational means of discovering a set of confidence-ranked response.

What does it mean for the web?

Currently, IBM have released a cloud-based API (which you can read more about here), that is now accessible to the public in a beta stage. It offers a collection of REST APIs and SDKs that use cognitive computing to solve complex problems. Here are a couple of examples of how it can be used effectively in the web.

Personality Insights: the service can analyse text based on a customer’s Twitter / Facebook stream to help a company decide what products to recommend to them. A hugely powerful tool for e-commerce based web companies.

Visual Recognition: semantic classifiers recognise many visual entities, such as settings, objects and events. This service can be used to organise a large collection of digital photographs based on themes such as cars, sports or photos showing people or even colours. Similarly, if you have multiple groups of photos from different people, you could build an app to associate them semantically – for example, person A and person X have many baseball and beach pictures, while persons J, K, and L have many indoor photos.

Southmead hospital in Bristol has started implementing Watson technology. Very little information is currently available at this stage, we will be monitoring and reporting future developments (read the article here).

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