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Watson1Ever since IBM’s Watson supercomputer demonstrated that it could put answers in the form of questions – the right answers – much faster than humans on Jeopardy!, it has been a very busy machine.

Like every celebrity genius, Watson has been wowing the world with tasks both trivial and significant, from conjuring BBQ sauce recipes to searching for a cure for cancer.


What makes Watson such an amazing machine?
  • Natural Language - Like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Watson can read and understand natural language.
  • Hypothesis Generation - When asked a question, Watson generates a hypothesis to evaluate and choose relevant data.
  • Dynamic Learning - Through repeated use, Watson literally gets smarter by tracking feedback from its users and learning from right and wrong answers.

It’s this ability to ask the system a direct question like, “How many chucks could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” and get a clear, understandable answer that puts Watson in a cognitive computing class by itself. 

Now, Watson is stepping out to rent its cognitive capabilities to the general public in a variety of ways.

As expected, one of the largest beneficiaries of Watson’s smarts is the scientific research community. With Watson Discovery Advisor, a cloud-based subscription service, researchers can ask Watson questions in standard language (like on Jeopardy!). To provide an answer, the system scans every relevant research document in the chosen field, a process that could take decades. Baylor College reported that Watson culled six years' worth of cancer research into useable results in just six weeks.

Other Watson cloud-based services are being added to the portfolio all the time. These include:

  • Watson Analytics - A natural language-based cognitive service that will provide businesses with instant access to powerful predictive and visual analytic tools.
  • Watson Engagement Advisor - Automates customer interaction by fielding and answering questions in natural language with informed, evidence-based reasoning.
  • IBM Watson Explorer - Provides search, navigation, and discovery over a broad range of data sources and applications both inside and outside your enterprise to help you uncover the most relevant information and insights.
  • Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) - Developed in partnership with Fluid, a digital commerce company, XPS lets consumers ask questions online like they would ask a sales associate in the store. The North Face will be the first include XPS on their website, allowing consumers to get recommendations on outdoor apparel and equipment based on natural language input like “What do I need for a five day backpacking trip?” (Don’t forget the moleskin.)


To help make Watson technology more available, IBM created the Watson Business Group. Since it was launched about a year ago, the group has been offering APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to developers in hopes that we’ll see Watson’s unique capabilities. Its deep data analysis and natural language processing have the potential to “Change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices." (PC World)

These are just a few of the exciting developments in the world of Watson. To learn more about cognitive computing and how your company might be able to take advantage of it, visit and reach out to the IBM BP Network today.

Written by IBM BP Network