Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World of Watson (WOW) Aims High

World of Watson was literally and figuratively a "WOW" for this analyst and probably for many others as well. There were several sub-themes that were on display like "Out Think Possibilities" and "Watson in the World". Instead of AI(Artificial Intelligence), IBM was hitting on IA (Intelligent Assistance) putting the spotlight on people with software and machine assists. There were a great number of sessions for the 18,000+ attendees. I will just highlight the ones I thought were excellent.

Ginni Rometty, the Chairman, President and CEO of IBM took the stage late in the conference and highlighted the vision that IBM has for Watson for the future. While it is clear that we are just scratching the surface with Watson, there was plenty to get excited about. While deep down IBM believes that AI will assist people, machines and software, the emphasis was on the extension of human intelligence with Watson. There is a clear dispersing of the seed of Watson in the areas of human interactions and data understanding as the early steps of changing the world with AI. 

To prove that IBM was partnering and making exciting progress, Ginni brought several folks to the stage with proof points and partnerships. IBM is now partnering with GM by extending OnStar, so Mary Barra the Chairman and CEO of GM came to stage and painted a vision of cars becoming digital assistants to the driver and occupants of GM brand vehicles. 

Then IBM demonstrated it's commitment to education showing it's Teacher Assistant that helps teachers with lesson plans and bringing John B. King Jr, the US Secretary of Education to the stage to talk about IBM's long standing commitment to pioneering with practical ways of linking business needs with custom education programs in the New York area. 

Next Ginni turned to health care and talked about the treatment of chronic diseases. To that end, Yitzhak Peterburg, the chairman of the board of Teva Pharmaceuticals to give a vision of combining smart medicines (some with chips inside) that could vary dosages based on conditions and emit smart data in context to online and remote physicians. Illustrations were depicted for asthma and diabetes leveraging the DNA baselines of individuals and predictions to avoid more serious down stream consequences for those conditions. 

IBM Also Announced  and Demonstrated Things that Caught My Attention *

The new Watson enabled Data Platform that leveraged machine learning some pretty slick visualizations leveraging virtual reality 

Watson Workspace that showed an integration of several collaboration and communication capabilities including Cisco portfolio and Slack 

Watson is also being leveraged to search on the content inside of video which were previously considered to be dark data.

* While there were other announcements on the IBM press page of interest to others

Presentations of Interest:

While I attended many good sessions, two still stood out as helpful in understanding Watson and how it learns. Training Watson is the key to success and it does learn slow at first, but rapidly out paces many of us. Listening to folks who leveraged Watson, it was clear that the training is ongoing, but faster over a long time period. 

Joichi Ito presented some key findings from MIT on how people and machines learn and how each add their own lenses to situations that must be taken into account when trying to replace understanding, judgment, decisions and actions bots for both software and machines. He went on to show were jobs were likely to be displaced with the advent of AI. 

Rob High had a fantastic session on "How Watson Really Works" leveraging a highly entertaining Myth busters style. Some of the myths debunked were that Watson needed super sized computers that could only be found at large companies. Only super-PhD types can build applications with Watson was another myth killed by the availability of usable APIs with focused capabilities such as sentiment and emotion. Also Rob indicated that Watson had no intentions of taking over the world. 

Bottom Line:

The World of Watson was exciting and challenging. It is clear that IBM is spreading the use of Watson into many areas by all means possible. IBM developed, Partner developed and ecosystem developed. The Cognitive Concourse was amazingly large with four big themes of redefining development, transforming industries, monetizing data and re imagining professions. The number of vendors that had booths were pretty impressive as well. AI is here to stay this time and IBM will play a big role going forward.