In 2011, IBM showed the world their newest addition to the computing world: Watson. The IBM Watson computer was first showed in the quiz Jeopardy. In the quiz, the computer competed against former winners and came out on top. The company named the computer after the first CEO, Thomas J. Watson, and invested more than $1 billion in it.
When the Watson was first launched, the potential for greatness was there. Now, more than five years than its debut, we see a number of uses for the computer. The Watson has come a long way since the win in Jeopardy in 2011. In 2013, the company announced it will use the computer for medical purposes, but the computer’s achievements are much bigger. Here are eight unusual things you can do with Watson, making the computer a special one.
How many of you have come up with an inventive recipe? And how many have you created? Most of us copy recipes from other chefs. But Watson is smart in his own way, and so far, he has created 65 recipes. All of them are detailed in the book “Cognitive cooking with Chef Watson”.
How Watson came up with the recipes? Well, the computer browsed through thousands of recipes. As a result, he learned which foods are paired with each other. And using those combinations, he came up with some superb recipes. Watson also learned the composition that gives the ingredient its distinctive taste.
In the end, Watson can make predictions what will work together, even though most of us have never put those ingredients in the same dish.
Medical research is tricky business. You need to read a lot. All those detailed studies, all those researches and articles. The human mind simply cannot process that much info. According to some studies, the average researcher can read only 23 scientific papers per month. That is less than 300 per year. And that is just too little.
Watson, on the other hand, can process millions of studies, documents, patents, and much other medical information. After processing the info, Watson then provides users with graphs and charts detailing all the data.
In one case, Watson came in handy. The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston used Watson for medical research. The College wanted to find the proteins that modify p53, protein that can slow down and even prevent tumor growth. Just weeks after Watson was “hired”, the computer found 70,000 studies on the protein. Watson identified six other proteins that could modify the protein.
Maybe the biggest benefit of Watson is that we actually train the computer. You are not just dumping text and data into the computer. You are actually training the system to understand what is reliable and important. You can tell Watson what to trust, which sources are more reliable. For example, you can train Watson to trust CNN sources more, than say Wikipedia.
This doesn’t mean that Watson won’t check both sources. In fact, Watson will check both sources. However, if there are conflicting facts, the computer will trust the more reliable source.
IBM calls this effort to train the computer “cognitive computing”. And that is a new field of development that we will move into the future. There will be less rote calculation, and more interaction with computers.
The best thing about Watson is that you actually see how the computer works. When Watson tries to answer your question, the computer will go through a series of work. And you see the process and how Watson gets to the answer.
And the best part is, you can pick up and examine the reasons why Watson chose Answer A, and not Answer B. This way, you can use your experience to decide whether the answer and evidence is reliable. You might even decide to read the study that Watson used to provide you with the answer. Simply put, the computer broadens your horizon and opens up new possibilities.
In the same way Watson helps medical experts, it can help veterinaries. For example, a vet may need to treat any of the 300 dog breeds or 70 cat breeds. That is a large number of breeds. And a vet needs to know everything about the breed. Not many people have so much knowledge.
To be able to work with any breed, a vet needs an encyclopedic knowledge of about 1,500 conditions. And Watson can make that process easier. One company involved with education, called LifeLearn, made Sofie. Sofie is an application that can provide vets with quick access to all treatments and studies on animals that Watson stores in its cloud.
We all know shopping can be stressful. And when it comes to online shopping, it can turn into a disaster. The amount of data you can find online to sports for example is astonishing. Not all stores have an expert on staff at all times. And in most cases, you need an expert to tell you what type of clothing you need, say for, mountain biking. Watson, on the other hand, can help with that.
The North Face has started using customers to help them with their online shopping. You need to enter a phrase to start, and then enter some basic info. And in the end, the computer will provide you with suitable clothing options. Instead of browsing through hundreds of clothing options, you’ll get the ones most suitable for you.
In the same way you can find the appropriate clothes, you can find the best wine for the occasion. Choosing a wine is a complex process. It is not as simple as going to the store and picking the first red wine you see. Is the wine soft, tannic, sweet, or plush? Even wine connoisseurs do not know all the right terms.
And since you know which flavors you like, a company has made an app to help you. The app, called Wine4me, uses Watson and his skills to look through a series of wine options. And then Watson does the search for you.
Believe it or not, but Watson can help you identify a person. And this option comes in handy for the HR department. Every time you post online, you are revealing hint about your personality. Watson can find these clues and paint a picture of your personality traits.
The computer can understand your personality just by paying attention to the choices you make. Lesson learned, be careful what you post online.