IBM Taps Watson for Robotics Innovation

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2016-01-07 Print this article Print
IBM Watson

Meanwhile, IBM is currently piloting robotics technology with companies in the hospitality and consumer packaged goods industries. Through a Watson-powered Pepper solution, businesses will be able to extend the ways in which customers experience cognitive computing. Today’s self-service options in retail environments are typically tablets or kiosks, limiting the scope of how truly interactive and intuitive the customer experience can be. With a robotic assistant, users can have a natural conversation where their words, as well as gestures and expressions are understood.

“We believe that the technology is ready; now it is time to move on to the practice,” Yoshida said, noting that he believes true innovation with Watson-powered robots will be accomplished as more clients adopt the technology and begin to find “killer apps” for each industry use case. “We believe this will not be science fiction anymore – the world of C-3PO and R-2D2 will be a reality.”

Today, robots can be found in use across manufacturing and automotive industries – even as a vacuum cleaner in many homes. However, they are limited in function, interaction, and are single-task-oriented, designed to complete specific jobs. There is ample opportunity to do much more, as IBM and SBRH advance Pepper’s mobility and dexterity to extend the ways in which cognitive computing can be applied. The two organizations are exploring a range of use cases from an in-class teaching assistant to a nursing aide – taking Pepper’s unique physical characteristics, complemented by Watson’s cognitive capabilities, to deliver an enhanced experience that helps people in new ways across industry domains.

“As a provider of robotics platforms, we seek to enable Pepper's collaboration with beneficial technologies. I anticipate this collaboration will expand Pepper's possibilities into an even wider range of fields,” said Fumihide Tomizawa, president of SoftBank Robotics Holdings,” in a statement.

As businesses look to increase customer engagement, many are leveraging cognitive systems to help make sense of data that can deepen this connection. Cognitive systems like Watson can help derive insights from new sources of information about people, for example what they share on social media in order to create better snapshots of their needs and what’s important to them. These systems also learn how people prefer to interact with brands, enabling companies to use that understanding to more personally reach out to individuals, IBM said.

According to a recent BI Intelligence report, “Robotics, long dominated by industrial and logistics uses, has begun to see a shift toward new consumer and office applications. There will be a $1.5 billion market for consumer and business robots by 2019.”



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