14 Mar IBM gathers inspiration for next big Watson project
The Watson supercomputer seems to have put its Jeopardy! days behind it. IBM has been experimenting with the advanced analytical technology's capabilities, perhaps most notably by testing its mettle in the healthcare industry as a virtual doctor's aide. Most recently, IBM announced that several new Watson initiatives could be on the horizon thanks to the IBM Watson Academic Case Competition, held this year at the University of Southern California (USC).
As part of the competition, IBM gave more than 100 USC students a tailored course on Watson and its capabilities before sending them off to brainstorm for 48 hours. Each team of 24 students came up with a vision for how Watson could be used in the future, which they presented to industry and faculty judges, including representatives from IBM and Bank of America.
The goal of this initiative is to enrich IT students' education by providing them with education about emerging technologies, as well as to potentially spark ideas for technologies IBM could develop further.
The third-place group suggested that Watson technology be further deployed in the healthcare industry to reduce suffering among patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an illness that many victims do not report. The students suggested that, by using the computer to analyze the large number of records soldiers acquire in their time at war, physicians could discover patients who may be suffering silently and offer them better care.
By using Watson to analyze the needs of both employees and employers, the second place winners found that the system may be able to help companies retain more workers by enabling them to do their jobs better. According to The American Society for Training and Development, nearly half of employees who receive poor training in a new job plan to leave within a year, while only 12 percent predict that they will quit in that time frame if their training was comprehensive.
Among all of the entries, one stood out for the judges, and it sees Watson as the legal counsel of the future. The supercomputer could be used to quickly and effectively assess a variety of materials, including trial records and evidence, to reduce costs to law firms. As some law firms are now moving away from the billable hours system, it has become increasingly important for lawyers to work efficiently while maintaining accuracy.
This isn't the first time that USC is coming in close contact with Watson-related technologies. In 2011, the college used IBM Social Analytics tools to make sense of baseball fans' social media activity during the National League Championship Series. The USC Annenberg Social Sentiment Index was able to quickly assess content on Twitter to gauge the public's feelings regarding specific players, teams and more. The system even used Watson's semantic and linguistic capabilities to categorize the tweets by positive and negative sentiment.
The first IBM Watson Academic Case Competition was held at the University of Rochester in 2012. The winning entries included plans to use Watson technology to analyze storms to help companies with crisis management, mine energy data to improve the environment and improve personal travel by assessing traffic and other influential factors.