What is Watson?
As a cognitive technology, Watson is a natural extension of what humans can do at their best.
When asked a question, Watson relies on hypothesis generation and evaluation to rapidly parse relevant evidence and evaluate responses from disparate data.
Watson can read and understand natural language, important in analyzing unstructured data that make up as much as 80 percent of data today.
Through repeated use, Watson literally gets smarter by tracking feedback from its users and learning from both successes and failures.
Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes. And learn it does. Watson “gets smarter” in three ways: by being taught by its users, by learning from prior interactions, and by being presented with new information. This means organizations can more fully understand and use the data that surrounds them, and use that data to make better decisions.
IBM Watson: Fueling a New Era of Cognitive Apps
Watson represents a first step into cognitive systems, a new era of computing. It uses programmatic computing plus the combination of three additional capabilities that make Watson truly unique: natural language processing, hypothesis generation and evaluation, and dynamic learning.
While none of these capabilities is unique to Watson by itself, the combination delivers the power to move beyond programmatic computing and unlock the world of global, unstructured data.
With Watson technology, we can move from a keyword-based search that provides a list of locations to an intuitive, conversational means of discovering a set of confidence-ranked responses.
The Jeopardy! Challenge
In February 2011, Watson defeated Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in the Jeopardy! Challenge. The quiz show, known for its complex, tricky questions and very smart champions, was the perfect choice, made by the IBM Research team, for this extraordinary challenge. To play, much less win, Watson had to answer questions posed in every nuance of natural language, including puns, synonyms and homonyms, slang and jargon.
Also of note, Watson was not connected to the internet for the match. It only knew what it had amassed through years of interaction and learning from a large set of unstructured knowledge. Using machine learning, statistical analysis and natural language processing to find and understand the clues in the questions, Watson compared possible answers, by ranking its confidence in their accuracy, and responded – all in about three seconds.
Watson is named for Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s founder, who led the company for 42 years. Optimistic and progressive, Mr. Watson always encouraged his employees to “THINK” – a charge that still stands as the motto and ethos of IBM today.