Watsons Practical Applications in Health Care

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-02-14 Print this article Print


The IBM team has been working for four years to get to this point, but the company has some ideas of how to turn Watson into practical applications in areas such as health care, tech support and business analytics, Ferrucci said. The system can listen to patients describe their ailments and co-relate it against all the medical journals and relevant information, to come up with a list of potential diagnoses, Katharine Frase, vice-president of industry solutions and emerging business at IBM Research, told eWEEK.

Eight universities collaborated with IBM Research to "advance" the Deep Q&A  technology powering Watson, according to IBM. The institutions include Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, University of Southern California, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University at Albany, University of Trento in Italy and University of Massachusetts Amherst. Each team will be focused on different aspects, such as the MIT team's work that allows Watson to break down the question into parts and process concurrently, and the CMU team's work on the computer's answer-scoring algorithm, IBM said.

Only the first round was broadcast, with the remaining Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy scheduled for Tuesday. The final game will air on Wednesday.  The tournament was taped at the IBM research center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. in January, but Jeopardy and IBM has managed to prevent the final outcome from leaking. The winner will take home the grand prize of $1 million (and bragging rights) which IBM has said will donate to charity if Watson wins.

As part of the players' introductions, Trebek walked the TV audience through the server room "next door" to the studio to show the five racks containing ten Power7  servers that house Watson's code, algorithms, and database containing everything it knows. The deep analytics system is the equivalent of 2,800 powerful computers tied together in a super high-speed network, Trebek said.

"It can play with champions. It answered some tough questions," said Ferrucci.

During the chit-chat segment halfway through round 1, the audience was shown a documentary clip talking about how bad Watson was at answering Jeopardy questions in the early years of development.


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