Cognitive

Bluemix, Watson and bot mania: The cognitive era plays hard at SXSW 

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The IBM activation this past week in downtown Austin earned it the number three slot in AdWeek’s compilation of the top eight topics that had attendees buzzing at South by Southwest.

No wonder. IBM at SXSW 2017 enticed developers to the golden age of cognitive by amping up its Bluemix services offerings, specifically around the APIs used to help Watson engage more sentiently with humans. IBM gave SXSW attendees access to Watson to create a bot, remix a song, design a t-shirt, or get a beer recommendation.

With no required badge, a full open bar and DJs on its mega roof deck, the IBM activation was fueled by a regular flow of deep dives at the Maker’s Garage and live talks with IBM heavyweights including CEO Ginni Rometty and Bob Sutor, IBM vice president of cognitive, blockchain and quantum solutions.

Conversation elevated from the cloud infrastructure layer to services throughout the entire activation. With Bluemix getting more recognition thanks to the Watson platform, the event spoke heavily to developers looking for a platform to build on and ways to pull together advanced applications.

Demo areas struck the right tone with non-developers, showing not only how Watson is making the world healthier, more secure, personal, creative and engaged, but also how Watson can now respond to human emotions, preferences and taste palates.

With SXSW interactive dovetailing into the mainstay SXSW music event, the creative aspects of Watson got lots of attention, giving musicians and enthusiasts an opportunity to collaborate and, even better, play with one of the world’s most advanced APIs.

Watson Beat, a research project born out of Austin’s Research Lab uses cognitive technology to compose and transform music by remixing any piece of music using a mood-driven palette to create a personal piece that suits the user’s emotional space.

Meanwhile, TJBot, an open source project, is designed to enable users to play with Watson Services such as Speech to Text, which teaches it to understand human speech. TJBot also demonstrates how Watson can hold a conversation and even respond to different moods using Personality Insights, which can analyze the emotive content of speech in real time.

SXSW cognitive bots

Capitalizing on the year of the bot

IBM may indeed have had the edge on SXSW’s fever pitch around bots, thanks to Watson and Bluemix.

In one SXSW featured session, the IBM events team got together with Vancouver’s Eventbase, creators of SXSW’s Go Mobile App, to share perspectives on how mobile apps and, more broadly, human experience can be enhanced with augmented intelligence.

This year, both SXSW and IBM’s Events mobile app (debuting the week of 19 March) feature intelligent, conversational user interfaces that act as personal concierge services.

“IBM sits in a unique position to provide a platform for bots and other customer experiences,” said Ted Conroy, IBM Events lead. “The appetite for bespoke, personalized experiences is voracious, and IBM’s cognitive services definitely can feed it.”

As Conroy pointed out, bots today use a simple, cognitive service to respond to sets of questions. When a service can’t answer, it defaults to scripted answers. Soon, bots will be proactive and able to choose the optimal cognitive service to best answer a broad set of questions without the current context limitations.

Check out how to build a bot in 15 minutes with Watson conversation in this demo.

Learn how to build a TJ bot of your own here.

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