IBM's Watson Goes to College

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-03-30 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

IBM takes its Watson supercomputer to college to play the "Jeopardy!" quiz game against students from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

IBM is hosting a Watson symposium with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, bringing together a group of academic minds to share ideas about the possibilities of Watson technology in the areas of medicine, law, business, computer science, engineering and more.

In addition, teams of students from CMU and the University of Pittsburgh will put their skills to the test in a demonstration of IBM Watson's question-and-answer capabilities. This is the first time students will have the chance to face Watson's powerful analytical capabilities in a practice round exhibition game of"Jeopardy!".

IBM chose to host the first Watson university symposium in Pittsburgh because of Carnegie Mellon's key contributions to the development of Watson-led by Eric Nyberg, professor, Language Technologies Institute, CMU School of Computer Science-and the university's role as a leading center for computer science research and education. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh has a long partnership with IBM in research projects such as cloud computing, carbon nanotubes and smarter health care research around pandemic disease outbreaks and tissue regeneration.

By bringing this technology to the university community, IBM aims to inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to think about how technologies such as Watson can benefit society, the company said. The event will also discuss the skills students need to drive future innovation.

"This is the first time we're bringing together Watson, IBM scientists, faculty and students to prepare for the next evolution in computing," said Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation and university programs for IBM, in a statement. "Watson will transform how technology is applied to assist doctors, business people and more. Our hope is that seeing Watson first-hand will spark innovation from the leaders of tomorrow so that together we can continue to build a smarter planet."

"Machines that think have been Carnegie Mellon's stock in trade since the first artificial intelligence program was invented here more than 50 years ago," said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University, in a statement. "IBM and Carnegie Mellon have been frequent collaborators during that period and, over the past decade, have enjoyed particular success in building question-answering machines. The recent triumph of Watson has been gratifying for the faculty and students involved, and we are pleased that our student body today will be the first to see this technological breakthrough in person."

"The Deep Question Answering technology that underlies IBM Watson's ability to extract, organize, analyze and assess massive quantities of information at record speeds has far-reaching implications across a wide range of sectors, among them education, business, law and medicine," said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, also in a statement. "The real-world applications of this cutting-edge technology-such as assisting health care professionals in evaluating complex and multiple diagnostic and patient treatment options-have the extraordinary potential to enhance the human condition and transform lives. Pitt is delighted to play an important role in this symposium and to once again join forces with our academic partner Carnegie Mellon University and industry leader IBM as it celebrates its landmark centennial anniversary."

Watson represents a major leap forward for computer science. With its combination of sheer data processing power, natural language recognition and machine learning, the system demonstrates that technology has the potential to help humans improve the performance of many endeavors-everything from medicine to education, law and environmental protection. The technology itself was developed in collaboration between IBM's Watson Research team and the academic community including CMU.

A team of researchers from CMU, led by Professor Nyberg, assisted IBM in the development of the Open Advancement of Question-Answering Initiative (OAQA) methodology for Watson. CMU also made two direct contributions to Watson: a source expansion algorithm which identifies the best text resources for answering questions about a given topic, and an answer-scoring algorithm which improves Watson's ability to recognize when a candidate answer is likely to be correct.

 

 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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