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On February 16th, IBM's super computer, named Watson, won a three day Jeopardy match against two human Jeopardy champions.  What gave Watson an edge over human competitors is that Watson is designed to answer a question in just three seconds, resulting in Watson consistently buzzing in faster more often than humans.  But Watson's AI is not perfect.  Since he can't hear other contestants, Watson would repeat answers already given.  Watson excelled at questions that could be looked up in Google, but he proved that tricky questions that required creative thinking were harder for him to answer.  Also, the way he is programmed resulted in Watson answering ‘Toronto' under a U.S. Cities category; he is designed to not give as much credit to the categories since many times the category is not directly related to the answer.

Though not perfect, Watson still proved to be a very powerful machine.  With the success of Watson's win, IBM announced that it will turn its attention to applying Watson's technology towards healthcare.  A hospital version of Watson could analyze a patient's medical history combined with current medical research to provide a more accurate diagnosis.  The amount of information for each patient in a hospital is huge, and doctors have trouble analyzing all of a patient's data as well as keeping up with updated medical research and relatable case studies.  Having a super computer that analyzes all of this data could save doctors a significant amount of time as well as provide a higher degree of accuracy when prescribing treatments.

Watson reminds me that IBM is the leader in super computers for organizations around the world.  IBM's super computers have often been used to predict weather for the summer Olympics, including Beijing, Athens, and Atlanta.  They are the reliable source for incredibly effective computers used in a large scale.  IBM is in a different market than Apple and Google, who are more focused on individual consumers.  IBM is on par with HP and Oracle (but Oracle is failing in this arena) as a provider of computers for large organizations that are incredibly efficient.  But couldn't IBM's technology research that goes into super computers end up in my everyday appliances?  I can only hope.

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx, who help customers intelligently invest their time and resources.

Last updated: Mar 2, 2011




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