Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for February 11th, 2011

Watson And The Academy

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Three more days to Watson and “Jeopardy!”  IBM productivity across North America will be stunted as laptops go dark and TVs light up to see how Watson fares against the best humans “Jeopardy!” has to offer.

But regardless of the outcome, the technology behind Watson will continue to evolve and be put to productive uses around the world.

And we’re going to have some help.

IBM announced earlier today that eight universities are collaborating with IBM Researchers to advance the Question Answering (QA) technology behind Watson.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Texas at Austin, University of Southern California (USC), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University at Albany (UAlbany), University of Trento (Italy), and University of Massachusetts Amherst join Carnegie Mellon University in working with IBM on the development of a first-of-its-kind open architecture that enables researchers to efficiently collaborate on underlying QA capabilities and then apply them to IBM’s Watson system.

Watson’s QA technology uses breakthrough analytics to understand what is being asked, analyze massive amounts of data, and provide the best answer based on the evidence it finds.

The ongoing research collaborations announced today will help advance Watson’s ability to transform the way businesses and society work and improve all kinds of industries, such as healthcare, banking, government, etc.

“We are glad to be collaborating with such distinguished universities and experts in their respective fields who can contribute to the advancement of QA technologies that are the backbone of the IBM Watson system,” says Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the IBM Watson project team.

“The success of the Jeopardy! challenge will break barriers associated with computing technology’s ability to process and understand human language, and will have profound effects on science, technology and business.”

I had occasion yesterday afternoon to watch Dr. Ferrucci explain the Watson system via an internal Webcast for a good 90 minutes, and it was replete with specific examples of how he and his team trained and evolved the system over the past four years.

My respect for their Herculean efforts only increased as I realized the complexity of their mission, and the “adaptability” they had to build into the system to get Watson to the level that it could compete with master human players.

Most folks probably don’t realize it, but the Watson system had to “compete” to become an official contestant just like the human champions he’ll be playing against and any other “Jeopardy” player who appears on the show.”

And based on Ferrucci’s deep dive deconstruction of the effort yesterday afternoon, it certainly didn’t happen overnight (It was more like four years).

Once again, I refer you to the IBM/Watson Website, where there are a series of videos in which key participants explain in (mostly) plain English the Deep Q&A technology behind Watson, and the opportunities and implications this technology presents to the world moving forward.

Check the Jeopardy! website to find out when and where you can watch the show in the North American market starting this Monday.

Written by turbotodd

February 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Microsoft And Nokias’ Noble Mobile Marriage

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Could you hear the mobile market bombshell Nokia and Microsoft dropped in London earlier today?

Here’s how it was covered on the Nokia Conversations blog.  Basically, Nokia’s putting Symbian out to pasture and adopting Windows Phone as its “primary smartphone strategy.”

This will bring Nokia and Microsoft into the same big mobile market bed as they “closely collaborate on development, joint marketing initiatives, and a shared development roadmap.”

It also means that Bing will become the search engine of choice across Nokia’s devices and services. This at a time when Bing’s market share hovered a little over 12% of the U.S., and just under 10% globally.

With the explosion of mobile devices around the globe and Nokia’s vast global market penetration, the Bing deal becomes an attempt to “buy in” as a potential strategic counterweight to Google’s vast and growing mobile search domination.

But considering Nokia’s own 4Q10 press release indicated that YOY market share had dropped from 35% to 31%, they’re going to need a major bounceback.

Then again, nothing surprises me in this industry anymore.  Microsoft helped “save” Apple way back when with a $150M cash infusion, so who’s to say Redmond can’t help Nokia get firmly back on the mobile information superhighway.

Though I won’t be running out to replace my own iPhone 4 anytime soon, a device I’ve become perfectly content with (save AT&T’s continued spotty service here in my Austin home office), it will be interesting to see if Redmond can save Helsinki.

A few other key aspects of the deal, FYI, and according to the official press release from Nokia:

  • Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
  • Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. For example, Maps would be integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and adCenter advertising platform to form a unique local search and advertising experience.
  • Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements will make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low.
  • Microsoft development tools will be used to create applications to run on Nokia Windows Phones, allowing developers to leverage the ecosystem’s global reach.
  • Microsoft will continue to invest in the development of Windows Phone and cloud services
  • Nokia’s content and application store will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace

Written by turbotodd

February 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

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