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Watson: IBM's A.I. Jeopardy Champion

Watson is a cognitive computing system that attempts to analyze data like a human. Watson went head to head with reining Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and won by a landslide. Sure the Jeopardy game was a bit of a publicity stunt but Watson is proving to be a highly useful tool for medical, business and personal applications.

Instead of computing information in a strictly linear way like previous computer systems, it attempts to rationalize during the processing of data. It can input and contextualize information intended for other humans which is unstructured (for a computing system) and culturally relative. Because of that ability Watson is also able to understand and respond in natural language. Both these items would be impossible with a traditional computer.

Watson is already being implemented in medical, financial and personal applications. Here are a few noteworthy uses of Watson’s cognitive computing skills.


Image source: wikipedia

Assisting Military personnel transition into civilian life

Using information from 3000 documents regarding matters of military to civilian life transition, Watson can respond to most questions posed regarding the subject. At the moment it is just a pilot program but once it is deemed beneficial it will go live.

PDSD diagnosis and treatment suggestions

Recently the Department of Veteran Affairs signed a $16 million dollar contract with IBM to use Watson in assisting in diagnosing and treating of Post Dramatic Stress Disorder. Using immense volumes of medical, clinical, patient and personal treatment information Watson will give physicians a set of viable treatment options. The physicians will be able to communicate with Watson with natural language. This will optimize the time between diagnosis and treatment which will be massively beneficial to the patients.  

Helping in the fight against cancer

Watson has recently been recruited by Anderson Cancer Center to help contextualize, classify and analyze patient treatment information in the hopes of reaching the most effective way to combat cancer. The data is gathered also from the Center’s laboratory and research facilities.

Financial Planning

Watson has recently been used by ANZ Global Wealth financial advisors to help them make more evidence based decisions when working with clients. Also due to Watson’s ability to digest massive amounts of data and rapidly contextualize it, it has also decreased the turnaround time on analysis and financial advice.

Clinical Trials and Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic currently runs 8000 human clinical trials many of which are never completed due to the lack of enrollment. Watson will be used to match individual patients to the most appropriate clinical trials thus ensuring completion and the publication of life saving treatments. The information the system will use encompasses all the clinical trials at Mayo Clinic and even ones in massive public databases.

Wayblazer and the future of travel

One of the first start-ups based on Watson’s computing power. Terry Jones founding chair member of Travelocity.com created a Wayblazer as a travel concierge that people can ask questions using natural language. The answers will be based on social, cultural and economic data specific to reviews and offers.

Think about how many people are involved in analyzing and contextualizing data. This isn’t a huge problem if time isn’t a significant factor but especially in the fields of mental and physical healthcare time is of immense importance. A doctor will be able to type in a patient’s symptoms, test results, age and sex and within seconds receive possible diseases based on vast deposits of empirical evidence. The exciting thing is that Watson is doing these things at an infantile stage of development, imagine what it could do in the future.

Do you find the advent of such technologies exciting? How do you see the future of cognitive computing? Let me know in the comment section below.