IBM Research Facilities: From Watson to Analytics to Health Care

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IBM Research Facilities: From Watson to Analytics to Health Care

by Scott Ferguson

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Answer: Watson

The question is, What supercomputer is coming to "Jeopardy"? While not the main focus of IBM's analytics research, Watson is one of the more popular projects that IBM has taken on in recent years. During a recent visit, IBM engineers were working on Watson to prepare for more, real-life "Jeopardy" contestants.

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From Deep Blue to Watson

IBM has worked on a number of supercomputers that have pushed the limits of technology. Before Watson, there was the chess-playing Deep Blue. Here's a close-up of Watson's scoreboard at the mock "Jeopardy" set.

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Blue Gene

A cousin of Watson, this Blue Gene supercomputer was once ranked, in November 2004, the world's fastest high-performance machine. At the time, it had a top performance of 70.72 teraflops. Now, the world's fastest machines top 1 petaflop.

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At IBM's Hawthorne facility, the company has set up different workstations to demonstrate different solutions to problems faced by businesses and government agencies. Here's a mock-up of a retail store.

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Veggie Vision

One of IBM's more lighthearted efforts is Veggie Vision, which uses technology that can instantly recognize food and offer a price and weight. It also has implications in health care, where it can tell what prescription medication someone is taking by the shape and size of the pill. This is part of IBM's video analytics research.

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Health Care

IBM also has several displays dedicated to health care and the role analytics can play in making health care more affordable and efficient. Here, an IBM health care application for hospitals is running on an iPad.

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Cloud Computing and Virtualization

IBM works with a number of third-party vendors, including Wyse Technology, on different initiatives within cloud computing and virtualization. Here, IBM is using a Wyse device to show a virtual desktop infrastructure.

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Scanning Tunneling Microscope

While IBM talks about the future, Big Blue also likes to emphasize its past accomplishments. Here next to some older technologies is a scanning tunneling microscope that can see a surface at the atomic level. In 1986, IBM engineers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer shared a Nobel Prize for inventing the microscope.

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Magnetic Hard Disk Drive

An example of the first magnetic hard disk drive. This one dates back to 1956.

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More Blue Gene

Supercomputers continue to drive much of the research at IBM. Here's a component from one of the first Blue Gene supercomputers.

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