Author Horace Greeley wasn't the first to say "Go West, young man!" but he is most often associated with the phrase. And now IBM is sending Watson, its artificial intelligence system (and famously the victor on Jeopardy in 2011) west to San Francisco in 2016.
The New York Times reported that the new headquarters, called Watson West, would employ several hundred people. IBM's Watson group, established as a separate business in January 2014, has its East Coast headquarters in downtown Manhattan.
Last Thursday, IBM announced new capabilities in Watson - services like speech, language understanding, image recognition and sentiment analysis. These humanlike abilities such as seeing, listening and reasoning are those associated with artificial intelligence in computing. IBM calls its approach to A.I. “cognitive computing.”
All the major technology companies – Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and others — are pursuing A.I. applications. Some are ahead of IBM in fields like image recognition.
What is distinctive about the IBM project is the breadth of its effort to create Watson tools and services as plug-in offerings for a wide range of developers. This would effectively "democratize" the technology.
IBM says it now has 350 company partners using Watson to make products, with about 50 services on the market. Some 70,000 software developers, IBM says, are using Watson software in some way. Many are in large organizations like ANZ Bank, Johnson & Johnson, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The article includes a fascinating list of industries using Watson, including wine sellers, job recruiters and consulting firms looking for potential growth strategies for clients. Watson has already made his appearance in the legal world and his role there will only grow with time and his enhanced capabilities. If IBM was looking to burnish its image as an innovator, Watson deserves a heck of a bonus and - given his new abilities - more than a few words of praise.
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