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

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

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