Thursday, October 18, 2012

Watson’s Mission is to answer questions no machine has ever been able to before

Though the initial mission has been already achieved, IBM now into real business with Watson.

In 2006, people at IBM in their research lab in upstate New York began building the machine named Watson (IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson) with the goal of creating a question and answer technology (in Natural language) that would be more powerful than anything on the planet which led by principal investigator David Ferrucci with his team (currently 45 people). The initial objective was to win in the game show Jeopardy, which Watson achieved in February 2011. 

Known as a Question Answering (QA) system among computer scientists, Watson has been under development for more than three years. According to Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the project team, "The confidence processing ability is key to winning at Jeopardy! and is critical to implementing useful business applications of Question Answering.” "Watson's software was written in various languages, including at least Java, C++, and Prolog and uses Apache Hadoop framework for distributed computing, Apache UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) framework, IBM’s DeepQA software and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 operating system. More than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses.” (Wikipedia). The sources of information for Watson include encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, newswire articles, and literary works. Watson also used databases, taxonomies, and ontologies. Specifically, DBPedia, WordNet, and Yago were used. In late 2009, a business development team at IBM had a meeting in an effort to understand the ultimate worth of this new technology. In September 2011, IBM and Wellpoint, a major healthcare solutions provider in the United States, announced a partnership to utilize Watson's data crunching capability to help suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors.  IBM has made it clear that Watson does not intend to replace doctors, but assist them to avoid medical errors and sharpen medical diagnosis with the help of its advanced analytics technology. It cannot think like the human but can only learn, synthesize and provide an output. The underlying technology has the potential to change the way humans interact with computers – and fundamentally change the future of a broad range of industries. Watson is designed to rival the human mind's ability to understand the actual meaning behind words, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content, and ultimately, demonstrate confidence to deliver precise final answers.

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