IBM Watson for everybody

The famous Jeopardy winning IBM computer will be made available to remote public access for developers.

If you know what (or should I say who?) Watson is, then that line alone will be enough to get you all excited, but if you don’t here’s a little background info on what’s what.

It is a natural-language query engine, one of the most powerful cognitive systems ever built. It was a contestant in a game of Jeopardy, a US game show where the players are given an answer and they must find the corresponding question. Watson annihilated former champions Ken Jenning and Brad Rutter with only 2 notable difficulties;

One was when the human players were confident enough in a topic to buzz in first and then try to think of the answer in the few seconds before they had to give a response. Another was when Watson mistakenly suggested Toronto was a US city. That seems to have been caused mainly by it having a lot of data about the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that plays alongside 29 US counterparts.

Geeks are Sexy

Watson is a modular supercomputer, for the game show, it was made up of around 90 servers and 16,000 gigabytes of RAM, 15TB of storage and 2,900 cores; it has now been scaled down to work on a configuration of  16 to 32 cores and 256GB RAM.

The final score of Watson's Jeopardy game

The final score of Watson’s Jeopardy game

IBM has already been using Watson in the health sector to help aid medical professionals make decisions. Its ability to sift through and make sense of hundreds of evidence-based, peer-reviewed cancer research papers and clinical guidelines is already proving to be a powerful diagnostic aid to oncologists.

With Watson’s cloud-computing options offered to businesses, IBM is offering the following tools:

  • Development Toolkit
  • Access to Watson’s API (Application Programming Interface)
  • Educational Materials/Documentation
  • Application Marketplace

Watson’s open API will become available some time around 2014 and will be based on a scheme where you pay for processing time.

“Cognitive systems are different in that they have the ability to simulate human behavior,” he said. “For the most part humans have had to adapt to the computer. As we get into cognitive systems we open up the aperture to the computer adapting to the human.”

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