By Stephen Gold
Ever since the early days of personal computing, scientists, sci-fi mavens and movie makers have envisioned a time when people would interact with pocket-sized intelligent digital assistants that would help them organize their lives and get things done.
Like flying cars, those intelligent digital assistants always seem to be off in the future.
Except that’s not so anymore. Today, scientists and engineers at IBM are designing cognitive systems that will ingest vast amounts of information, learn, reason, and interact with people in ways that are more natural to us.
Very soon, you’ll have all of the power of Watson, the Jeopardy-winning computer, delivered in the palm of your hand. In fact, some early adopters are already trying out test versions of the technology.
Many people think of Watson as a room-sized supercomputer. Today’s reality is quite different. The computing power of the original Watson has been squeezed into a space the size of three pizza boxes, and, thanks to the cloud, Watson’s intelligence can be accessed on your smart phone or tablet wherever and whenever you want it.
To learn more about IBM’s Mobile Watson strategy, see IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s keynote today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Tweet to #IBMWatson and #MWC14
The uses of Watson are nearly infinite. Its capacity for augmenting human intelligence and helping us understand our world and make critical decisions is reshaping whole industries—from healthcare and banking to travel and retailing. It will provide professionals of all types with an additional breadth and depth of knowledge that they can only dream of now. And it will bring individuals the information and insights they need to live happier and more successful lives.
Here are a couple of scenarios that show how the power of Watson can be delivered to the palm of your hand:
Healthcare: Oncologists working in cancer centers will have a Watson app on their smartphones or tablets. When they’re in their offices, on rounds, meeting with patients or getting coffee in the cafeteria, they’ll be able to ask questions of Watson and get pertinent information and advice that helps them prepare for the next meeting or decide on personalized treatments for patients. Physicians at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are already experimenting with a advisory system powered by Watson.
Shopping: When you’re surfing the Web, you’ll be able to use your smartphone or tablet to engage Watson as your personal shopping assistant. As you enter retailers’ Web sites, you’ll be greeted by a Watson adviser who will ask what you’re looking for and engage you in a conversation that will result in a highly personalized recommendation on what to buy. Say you’re shopping for snorkeling gear for a visit to a particular reef off the coast of Australia. Watson might also give you tips about arranging for a guided tour or avoiding encounters with sharks. San Francisco-based Fluid Inc. is developing just such a shopping adviser.
Logistics: Picture yourself as the manager of a trucking company. You’ll be able to move freely between your depots and the offices of transport partners and clients to build relationships, close sales, and manage the latest weather-related glitch. Storms are coming in from the West. You’ll open your Watson app on your smartphone to get access to highly detailed weather predictions combined with up-to-the minute intelligence about the performance of your fleet—and recommendations from Watson on how you should respond. Plan A. Plan B. And Plan C.
While these are highly focused applications of Watson, you can see how the same capabilities will be useful in many other situations–for business leaders and their employees, for professionals and for individuals. Whenever you’re faced with a complex situation, a lot of potentially confusing information and a decision to make, Watson can be your adviser and guide.
Today, people talk to their smartphones to get the latest sports scores and locate pizza shops. Tomorrow, we’ll connect just as easily to intelligent agents who help us live better and work smarter. Who knows when flying cars will finally put in an appearance. Smart machines are here and now.
To learn more about the new era of computing, read Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing.