As artificial intelligence gains a foothold in the mainstream of entrepreneurship, executives at IBM’s Watson division predict cognitive computing technology will transform a variety of fields.

Watson offers a set of tools to developers seeking to create AI-infused products. Roughly 360 companies, most of them startups, use Watson APIs and about 100 of those companies have created products that are already on the market.

“It’s a rapidly growing ecosystem and it’s a rich set of tools,” says Watson Senior Vice President Michael Rhodin.

Watson Chief Technical Officer Rob High says Watson’s products that provide AI capabilities to businesses are not aimed at replacing the work of humans, but at enhancing and augmenting what humans can do.

Here are three fields where the two envision disruption.


Medical data is often siloed, making it difficult for physicians and other medical professionals to synthesize information and achieve a holistic view of a patient’s condition, says Rhodin. Artificial intelligence can quickly find the connections humans can’t. “We’ve made a big bet there,” says Rhodin. Pleasanton, Cali.-based GenieMD has developed a mobile app using cognitive intellect and data analysis capabilities of Watson to develop individualized health profiles based on questions answered by users, with the aim of making health information “actionable and shareable.”


The number of laws in the United States is “growing exponentially” says Rhodin, and “no one can consume it all.” Artificial intelligence can synthesize legal information, allowing lawyers to spend less time processing information and more time using it. That’s the idea behind artificial intelligence attorney startup ROSS Intelligence, which uses Watson tools including natural language processing to help lawyers manage the time and costs of performing legal research. The Palo Alto-based startup’s CEO Andrew Arruda says time spent processing the information needed to craft legal arguments saps creative energy from lawyers. Access to AI tools can free up valuable time at law firms.


This one is tricky, say Rhodin and High. Rhodin sees education at this point as an area of possible disruption, and even says “disruption is the wrong word when we think about education.” He says AI could improve education. Programs using artificial intelligence could automatically update learning plans to keep them in line with curricular standards, for example. High says programs can track the progress of students, helping teachers to better keep with the varying paces at which different students learn. CarneyLabs is using Watson technology to analyze personality characteristics of students and help them develop their career paths. School districts in Virginia plan on implementing a program using CarneyLabs services.