IBM unveils plans for Watson supercomputer to lead the cognitive era

Toward Digital EncryptionIBM CEO Ginni Rometty used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to showcase a range of new partnership projects that will help supercomputer Watson usher in the ‘Cognitive Era’.

Among the new advances promised are health and fitness programmes, robotic apps for banking retail and hospitality, intelligent home appliances and computers that understand and adapt to human behaviour.

Under Armour and IBM have jointly developed a new cognitive coach that gives athletes evidence-based advice on health and fitness-related issues, Rometty revealed. The system combines IBM Watson’s technology with data from the 160 million members of Under Armour’s Connected Fitness community.

Meanwhile Watson is being used by Medtronic to bring its analytics powers to diabetes management. A joint effort by both companies means that hypoglycemic events can be predicted three hours in advance and neutralise deadly health events.

The cloud has infused Watson into Softbank Robotics’ ‘empathetic’ robot Pepper, boosting its thought processing powers so it can understand and answer questions. This, argued Rometty, could be applied to businesses such as banking, retail and hospitality.

Rometty said IBM and SoftBank Robotics will tap into data and knowledge across the IoT so Watson-powered Pepper robots can make sense of the hidden meaning in social media, video, images and text. This, Rometty said, brings in a new era in computing where systems understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning and experience.

Appliance maker Whirlpool is being hooked into the Watson IoT cloud to create new cognitive products and services, such as an oven that can learn about its user’s eating habits, health issues and food preferences. IBM demonstrated Whirlpool’s Jen-Air oven equipped with the Chef Watson cooking app.

The developments mark a new cognitive era of computing, where IT works around humans, a reversal of the standard practise, according to IBM. “As the first system of the cognitive era, Watson infuses a kind of thinking ability into digital applications, products and systems,” said John Kelly, senior VP of IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio.

A Watson software development kit (SDK) is available to give developers the chance to tailor the interaction experience. IBM will give clients access to Watson APIs and various pre-packaged applications designed to address a variety of personal and professional needs.