Posts Tagged ‘watson’

What has Watson been doing this year?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

IBM Watson is a computer system created to answer questions – questions posed in unstructured, free, natural English language.

It answers using knowledge that it builds for itself by reading and understanding the contents of books and other documents.

It learns how to identify answers by being trained, learning from experience how to interpret the evidence in it’s knowledge.

I wrote a (long and rambling) post in January about work that had been done on Watson since it was unveiled to the world.

Here’s a quick overview of a few things that’s happened since then.

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What makes Watson different?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I’ve tried to explain IBM Watson to a lot of people this year. A common theme in questions I’ve had has been comparing it to search engines like Google.

Sometimes people ask why one is “better” than another. Sometimes they just ask how they are different.

It’s not surprising. A natural response to learning about something new is to put it into context of things that we already know.

In addition, we describe Watson as a question answering technology and over the last few years many people have perhaps become a bit conditioned to thinking that if they have a question then they can Google for it.

There are many differences between search engines and Watson, both in what they can do, and in how they try to do it.

Here is one example.

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Talking about Watson

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I was in London yesterday to give a talk about the work that has been done with Watson in the last year or so. Rather cruelly, the organisers filmed me and put it on the Internet. 😉

If you can ignore my ridiculous voice, some incoherent rambling, an uncomfortable and ill-fitting suit, and a lot of “erm” and “umm”, there was some interesting stuff in there, so I thought I’d share it.


YouTube : Dale Lane – Keynote at PCTY London 2012

What has Watson been up to since Jeopardy?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

It’s been about a year since the computer system IBM Watson entered a TV quiz show against two of the best people to play the game, and won.

You knew that already, right? If not, skip reading this and go watch some of the footage instead. It’ll be more interesting.

But what has been done with Watson since?

Watson still makes the news even if not as much as during Jeopardy!. And with updates on twitter, facebook and YouTube there’s a lot of info out there about the project.

With all those updates, it’d be useful to bring some of it together into an overview of what sort of work has been taking place in the last year.

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The Conversational Internet

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Imagine using the Internet as a blind person.

As an occasional web-developer, I had some awareness of the importance of accessibility for the web, but to be honest it was pretty superficial. You just add ALT tags to your images, make sure you can tab between all the controls on the page, and a screen-reader will sort out the rest, right?

I went to an event in London a couple of weeks ago, where the reality was brought home to me.

Screen-readers are not as intelligent or as helpful as I’d assumed. They just read out everything on the page.

Imagine a typical modern web app… for example, facebook. Start reading everything on the page, from the top left of the page, and carry on until you reach the bottom right. Imagine what that might be like.

The best analogy I can think of is to try and picture the worst possible automated phone menu experience. The sort of one where they read you a long list of almost-unintelligible options: “for blah-blah-blah, press 1, for blather-blather-blather, press 2, for something-or-other, press 3 …. for something-else-vague, press 9 …

None of the options seem like an exact match for the task that you have in mind, and by the time you’ve got to the end, you can’t remember whether the option that sounded sort of vaguely similar was option 3 or option 4…

Imagine that for a web page. Apparently, a screen-reader can take three or four minutes to read out the contents of a typical web page today. Can you imagine an automated phone system that spent four minutes listing your options, then expected you to try and choose which one you wanted?

That’s the experience that many blind people face when trying to use modern web apps that we take for granted.

ALT tags are all well and good, but making a web page accessible isn’t the same as making it usable.

So… as geeks with a passion for technology and an interest in making the web useful to all, what can we do?

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The problem with Jeopardy!

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

The I’ve-been-blogging-for-five-years-but-am-still-paranoid-about-work-related-posts-being-misrepresented disclaimer:
I do work for IBM as a developer on Watson but that role doesn’t extend to this blog. My responsibilities for Watson are limited to writing code… so any ramblings here are my personal views, and not necessarily representative of IBM’s positions, strategy or opinions.

The first time most people saw or heard of Watson was on “America’s favourite quiz show”, Jeopardy!

And that association seems to have stuck. For the moment, at least, Watson’s identity seems to bound up with Jeopardy’s. It’s “the computer system that won on Jeopardy!”

I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing.

Jeopardy! was a great demonstration of Watson’s capabilities in a lot of ways. It showed the breakthroughs in interpreting natural language, the breakthroughs in coming up with evidence and rationale and identifying the level of confidence in it’s answer’s, and the power of machine learning systems.

But… it does make it easy to misunderstand the future potential of the technology.

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