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A New Sweetheart on Valentines Day

On February 14th, 2011, Valentine’s Day, IBM will be debuting “Watson” as a contestant on the popular game show, Jeopardy!. Watson is a supercomputer powered by an IBM POWER7 server and is programmed to handle a massive number of tasks at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and deliver responses to inquiries such as those posed on Jeopardy!. The Watson software incorporates a number of proprietary technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time.

The computer has the ability to analyze the subtle meanings, irony, and riddles which accompany Jeopardy questions. It develops an answer and assesses its probability of accuracy to determine if a response is warranted. All this is performed at record speeds.

This is definitely more than just number crunching the winning moves on a chess board. The Watson software has to understand language, extract information, do it quickly and then determine a level of confidence in that response.

Although Jeopardy! presents an entertaining example of the technology, the real applications are truly awesome. The technology could be applied in areas such as healthcare, to help accurately diagnose patients. IBM suggests other applications such as improving online self-service help desks, providing tourists and citizens with specific information regarding cities and much more.

In 1968 the epic science fiction film, 2001 A Space Odyssey, HAL was the onboard computer that possessed similar abilities that Watson now has. This is a huge leap into artificial intelligence (AI). AI is one of the critical components that will allow robotics to be a reality in our everyday world not just on factory floors. A new frontier is upon us.

I suspect Watson is also very capable of writing a romantic message to win over your Valentine. Yes, this might change the way we interact with our computers but thank goodness we still need humans to deliver the heartwarming hug.

Joanne Itow
Managing Director

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