updated 06:17 am EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Cloud-based service to provide intelligent backbone to customer queries
IBM is working on a cloud service based of Watson, its natural language processing and information retrieval system, for use by other developers. The service will allow developers to pay for time on the supercomputer, allowing for apps and services to use its "cognitive computing" technology for commercial purposes, such as answering queries within smartphone apps.
The Watson system has been considerably scaled back since it was famously used to defeat two champions on Jeopardy!, with PC World reporting that the 2,900-core system with 15TB of RAM can be brought down to an instance on a supercomputer of between 16 and 32 cores with 256GB of RAM. For more intense requirements, these smaller boxes can be made to work together, scaling with the task at hand. IBM has also improved its document handling, with it able to support more document types and understand more varied data formats from within the documents themselves.
The toolkit being supplied to developers includes access to the Watson API, an application marketplace, and support documents, with IBM claiming the APIs are easily useable by programmers familiar with RESTful APIs. One of the first to create a Watson-based program is Fluid, which hopes to create a software-based retail assistant that can converse with customers and advise on product purchases.
"Cognitive systems are different in that they have the ability to simulate human behavior," said CTO of Watson Rob High, continuing "For the most part humans have had to adapt to the computer. As we get into cognitive systems we open up the aperture to the computer adapting to the human."
Earlier this year, it was revealed that IBM was working with a number of companies to put Watson to work mining customer data, in order to become a virtual customer service assistant.