IBM wants to take Watson mobile, bring its tech to your smartphone

[Credit: IBM]

Last year, the world watched in wonder as an enormous artificial intelligence computer, Watson, competed with previous Jeopardy! champions for a few rounds of the popular game show. IBM’s computer came away victorious, proving that artificial intelligence could trump even the most expansive human minds…at least on a game show. Now IBM has begun to tell the world more about its plans for global domination Watson's underlying technology.

As it turns out, IBM created Watson not just to conquer Ken Jennings, but to make it so computers can interact with humans in a more natural way. In order to accomplish this on a wide scale, IBM wants to bring Watson to smartphones.

If this sounds like Siri to you, then you’re on the right track. But IBM says that Watson surpasses Apple’s personal assistant in many ways. Watson 2.0—the version IBM is working to bring to smartphones and tablets—will add "sense" functionality, allowing it to respond appropriately to speech and images.

Watson will also be able to answer extremely complex and specific questions, as evidenced by the fact that “the system is crunching financial information for Citigroup Inc. and cancer data for WellPoint Inc.,” according to Bloomberg's Sarah Frier.

As great as this sounds, a Watson app might be a ways off still. As Bloomberg reports, Watson’s processing power is roughly equivalent to that of 6,000 desktop computers. Needless to say, that’s way more power than a smartphone provides, though Siri and its Android rival Google Now both rely on cloud computing magic; Watson is likely to do the same. Watson also has to go through a process called “machine learning” in order for it to master any given field of study.

According to Bernie Meyerson, IBM vice president of innovation, a handheld Watson is not a pipe dream, but in fact an impending reality that could change the way man and machine interact.

“One day, you will have ready access to an incredible engine with a world knowledge base,” Meyerson told Bloomberg. I can’t wait for that day.

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