IBM's Watson Gets San Francisco Office, Added Capabilities

IBM is building new West Coast office in San Francisco for its IBM Watson system, while Big Blue has added some capabilities, including ones for social media and productivity.

Larry Loeb, Blogger, Informationweek

September 24, 2015

3 Min Read
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IBM's Watson artificial intelligence (AI) engine just keeps growing.

Big Blue announced Thursday, Sept. 24, that there will be a new Watson hub in San Francisco, along with upgraded capabilities and tools.

The West Coast location will also serve as the new global headquarters for IBM Commerce, the company’s effort to increase "customer to business relationships" with computer technology.

IBM said that the teams there will collaborate to integrate Watson solutions with the company's Commerce portfolio that is designed for retailers and consumer products organizations. Located at 505 Howard St., the San Francisco facility will open in early 2016.

IBM also wants to be closer to the tech action going on in Silicon Valley.

"This [hub] will put IBM closer to, and increase collaboration with, the local startups, developers, venture capital groups, established businesses and academic experts the company is currently working with to take cognitive computing into new markets," according to IBM's statement.

In less than two years, the Watson platform has grown from one initial API -- made famous by its use on the TV show Jeopardy! to defeat a human competitor, and a limited set of application-specific deep Q&A capabilities -- to more than twenty-five APIs powered by more than 50 different technologies.

Some of these technologies now include, according to IBM: Convolutional Neural Networks, Keyword Extraction, Linguistic Analysis, Passage Answering, Question Analysis, Relationship Extraction, and Statistical Language Processing to Visual Analysis.

(One interesting fact: The name Watson has nothing to do with Sherlock Homes or the guy Alexander Graham Bell was calling for on the first telephone. Thomas J. Watson, who the system is actually named after, lead the company from 1914 to 1956.)

One of the new Watson services for developers is an improved language service that will "enable cognitive applications to understand the ambiguities of natural language in text." It is aimed at finding answers for users even when questions are asked in varying ways.

IBM also announced what it calls Visual Insights.

[The robot overlords are not taking over, just yet. Find out how robots and human will work side-by-side.]

This moves Watson into social media through image analysis.

The Visual Insights feature works to, as IBM puts it, to "give users tools to ensure consistency across those social media channels, segment customers to an individual level, create targeted campaigns, and align their social media output to followers' preferences by running comparative analysis with competitors' feeds."

A user will input a grouping of image files and get back a tagging profile that rates how common each tag is in the photo collection. Each tag's score is a combination of confidence and prevalence, ranging from low (zero) to high (one).

All your photos on Facebook now belong to Watson.

There are also new developer tools allow embedding Watson APIs into different form factors, such as mobile devices, cloud services, and connected systems.

Watson will be watching you, no matter how you connect.

About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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