IBM Expands Watson AI Platform And Ecosystem

  • IBM expanded its Watson AI platform with with new cognitive computing APIs.
  • More than 100 partners from an increasing number of industries are developing their own Watson-powered cognitive apps.
  • New capabilities and developer tools offered through the Watson Developer Cloud include natural language processing, speech recognition and synthesis, and computer vision.
  • Watson is set to become an operating system for an emerging class of data-fueled artificial-intelligence applications.
  • Cognitive computing will be a hugely important part of tomorrow's personal, enterprise, and government computing.

IBM (NYSE:IBM) expanded watson, its Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, with new cognitive Application Programming Interfaces (API) for developers, entrepreneurs and businesses, available to more than 77,000 developers in the Watson Developer Cloud. The announcement was made by IBM during its forum on cognitive computing and AI. In addition, more than 100 partners in the Watson ecosystem, from an increasing number of industries and professions, are developing their own Watson-powered cognitive apps.

Note: You might also bee interested in our Facebook AI coverage.

Watson is an open cognitive computing technology platform, where "cognitive computing" indicates computer systems that understand the world in the way that humans do. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. The first commercial applications of Watson, in 2013, have been for assisting health care providers in patient treatment decisions. The automated machine learning technology of Watson is at the forefront of AI research, but there are practical spin-offs that can already be used in commercial applications built on the Watson Developer Cloud.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty predicted a future in which "every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson."

IBM has two dedicated business units: Watson, dedicated to the development of cloud-delivered cognitive computing technologies that represent the commercialization of AI across a variety of industries, and Watson Health, dedicated to improving the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers and other related health organizations to surface new insights from data to deliver personalized healthcare.

In 2011 IBM’s Watson AI system outperformed the best two players in the world in a Jeopardy! contest. Jeopardy! was chosen to demonstrate the capabilities of Watson because it isn't a narrow and well-defined task suitable for dumb automation, but on the contrary involves most of the subtleties and intricacies of natural language processing. The knowledge base of Watson is assembled by automatically reading Wikipedia and a wide range of natural language documents, and combining a huge number of individual inferences into factual knowledge.

“Since introducing the Watson development platform, thousands of people have used these technologies in new and inventive ways, and many have done so without extensive experience as a coder or data scientist,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson. “We believe that by opening Watson to all, and continuously expanding what it can do, we are democratizing the power of data, and with it innovation.”

In less than two years, the Watson platform has evolved from one API and a limited set of application-specific deep Q&A capabilities to more than 25 APIs powered by over 50 technologies. New capabilities and developer tools, offered through the Watson Developer Cloud, include advanced specialized modules for natural language processing and understanding to build products and applications that understand intent and meaning, speech recognition and synthesis with support for new languages such as Japanese and Mandarin, and computer vision services to gather insights from social media images and video.

According to IBM, the new developer tools significantly reduce the time required to combine Watson APIs and data sets. The tools make it easy to embed Watson APIs in any form factor from mobile devices, cloud services, and connected systems. The IBM Watson Knowledge Studio, currently in a beta preview phase, will be a single integrated Watson access point in the enterprise.

New partners in the Watson ecosystem, including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Coalesce, Touchcast, and Wayin, are using the IBM APIs to embed cognitive computing in applications, services and businesses, including card payments and financial services, social media, advertising and marketing, R&D, knowledge management, student career counseling, strategic advice, citizen services, personalized health and wellness, and sales training.

According to CNBC, the announcement represents the clearest sign so far of IBM's long-term goal: "to make Watson the equivalent of a computing operating system for an emerging class of data-fueled artificial-intelligence applications."

If Rometty's vision of pervasive cognitive computing that informs all decision comes true, and everything - from self-driving cars to automated genome analysis for personalized medicine - seem to indicate that it will, cognitive computing will be a hugely important part of tomorrow's personal, enterprise, and government computing. IBM is establishing its position as one of the leaders in tomorrow's cognitive computing, and at the same time commercializing the first applications of today's cognitive computing, which is likely to have a positive impact on IBM's stock in the near and mid term.

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