We were all impressed by Watson’s trouncing of Jeopardy grandmaster Ken Jennings, a couple of years ago. While the system was designed specifically to compete on the game show, its real world implications are great. Recently IBM announced plans to adapt Watson for healthcare purposes, harnessing its searching and indexing power to keep health care providers abreast of the latest medical information. Now IBM is leasing out Watson to handle customer service for companies such as Nielsen, IHS, Royal Bank of Canada, and ANZ Bank.
Apps designed by these partners will use the power of Watson to answer their customers’ questions. Voice integration is in the works as well, landing another blow to poor Siri. Watson “learns” from the conversations it has and can provide answers based on a huge knowledge base (including the entire text of Wikipedia). So the quality of its answers will be very good and they’ll only improve with time.
These new Watson enabled apps should start releasing in the next few months. It will be interesting to see how Watson measures up against human beings. Watson, and this type of technology seems incredibly well suited to chat or text based customer service, tech support (at least 1st tier), as well as answering services like ChaCha.
This type of technology is in its infancy and we can expect it to only get better. Still having your questions answered by a supercomputer is pretty cool, even if they’re about mundane things like banking issues.