Watson, the supercomputer famous for beating the world's best human "Jeopardy!" champions, is going to college.
IBM is announcing Wednesday that it will provide a Watson system to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
the first time the computer is being sent to a university. Just like
the flesh-and-blood students who will work on it, Watson is leaving home
to sharpen its skills. Course work will include English and math.
"It's a big step for us," said Michael Henesey,
IBM's vice president of business development. "We consider it
absolutely strategic technology for IBM in the future. And we want to
evolve it, of course, thoughtfully, but also in collaboration with the
best and brightest in academia."
Watson is a cognitive system that can process massive amounts of
data, including natural language. To beat "Jeopardy!" champions in 2011,
it was fed the contents of encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, news
dispatches and movie scripts. For its medical work, it takes in medical
textbooks and journals.
After it takes in data, Watson can provide
information like a "Jeopardy!" answer, a medical diagnosis or an
estimate of financial risk.
IBM, which provided a grant to RPI to operate Watson for three years,
sees it as a way to help it boost the computer's
Artificial intelligence researchers at RPI want to do things like
improve Watson's mathematical ability and help it quickly figure out the
meaning of new or made-up words. They want to improve its ability to
handle the torrent of images, videos and emails on the Web, the sort of
unstructured information that is overwhelmingly fueling the data boom.