How developers will build the cognitive world with Watson – Dev Con 2016

By | 6 minute read | November 9, 2016

leadspace image for IoT at World of Watson 2016

San Francisco’s Innovation Hangar next door to the Palace of Fine Arts, opened it’s doors to a host of developers interested to find out about the power of Watson. As the line up wound its way into the registration booths, welcoming espresso and red bull shots perked the crowd up. After a speedy breakfast the developer audience gathered as the lights dropped for the welcome presentations.

Bob Lord, IBM’s Chief Digital Officer, welcomed everyone and explained that the day would be about learning, playing, and exploring. Bob welcomed Ginni Rometty, IBM’s Chairman and CEO, to the stage. Ginni was keen to share IBM’s passion for development and mentioned that IBM had been in California for a long time, since 1914 with IBM’s first lab in Silicon Valley. The newest is Watson West on Howard Street in San Francisco.

Ginni Rometty at Watson Developer Conference

Ginni Rometty takes the Watson Developers Conference stage

What is a world with Watson?

We’re on a path to 1 billion people touched by Watson by the end of the year. People that want to solve the unsolvable problems of the world. 200 million patients through healthcare systems around the world. This started with the diagnosis and treatment for Cancer. There are 200 million consumers interacting with Watson. Not just shopping – insurance, banking, government are all covered. Then there’s half a million students choosing their college curriculum with Watson. This’ll grow 5X in the next year.

We’re looking at a third computing age – tabulating, programmable, and now cognitive. Ginni has three beliefs:

  1. Founded on data being the world’s next natural resource
  2. Watson should be an open platform. To be ubiquitous it’s based on cloud and comprises a set of API’s.
  3. Not artificial intelligence but augmented intelligence – man AND machine.

Watson is THE AI platform for business. It’ll be great from the smallest of companies to the largest.

Why would a developer partner with Watson?

Three reasons why developers would partner with IBM and Watson:

  1. Access to the science of Watson – $12 billion investment in Watson that developers should be able to take advantage of – and make it consumable. IBM views cloud and cognitive as two sides of the same coin. Dozens of API’s and a robust infrastructure layer.
  2. Committed to making you a leading edge cognitive developer – certified Watson developer certification and a community of cognitive developers. Watson will be easily consumable and customisable.
  3. Commercial success – IBM is committed to shared commercial success in partnership. Access to markets is key. IBM has the largest professional services group in the world with many ways to get started.

The best way to see these three elements in action

What have developers done with Watson?

Dr. Ashok Goel, Professor School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech, joined Ginni on stage to talk about the skills that students will need in the cognitive era. It’s creativity, design thinking and systems thinking. How do we think about learning experiences that foster design thinking and systems thinking?  The answer is that students work on solving real, complex problems. IBM has 30 Design Studios around the world putting empathy with the end user at the core of design. Dr. Goel built Jill Watson, a bot to answer some of the many questions that students pose in the on-line training that Dr. Goel teaches. Jill uses Watson’s Q&A and only responds when she’s 97% confident or better with her answer. Using Jill as an AI helps free up students to focus on the creative elements of their study.

Neil Henderson, coach to the USA Womens Cycling Team who won silver at the Rio Olympics, joined Ginni on stage. Neil talked about how the team had used Watson Internet of Things in the team’s training. The indoor event in a velodrome is a great example of man working with machine. Human measures such as oxygen consumption that can be reviewed in real time can be extremely useful. This is what Neil used with the team to inform their coaching. It gave the coaches time to work with the athletes and give them useful feedback that they could respond with immediately rather than waiting overnight for data to be analysed. Integrating the data insights can fast-forward learning. The tech is only used in training, the performance during the Olympics was solely the athletes’.

Joshua Browder, Founder DoNotPay joined Ginni on stage. Joshua started by creating a bot that would fight parking tickets. Rather than helping one-by-one, Joshua wanted to help many people at the same time. Using a Watson API, he creates appeal letters than can be sent to contend parking infringements. He created the first ‘robot lawyer’. The app is based on legal precedents, uses Google apps and learns as it goes. Joshua has now branched out to help the homeless claim housing, tenants fight landlords and immigrants to access their human rights where they have no access to legal counsel. Watson allowed Joshua to improve the performance of his apps without having a very high levels of technical education.

Ginni concluded:

IBM is committed to building a world with Watson and helping the developers that will build that world.

Two big announcements

img_6636-2Bob Lord makes two big announcements

Bob Lord then returned to the stage to make two announcements:

  1. A partnership with Top Coder – a cognitive computing learning path for developers
  2. XPrize $5m AI prize.

Willie Tejada, IBM Chief Developer Advocate, took to the stage to ask “what will you build with Watson?” and invited some colleagues up on stage with him:

Ryan Bartley, Head of Growth and Applied Innovations, Staples talked about how customers can interact through many different channels. The iconic ‘easy button’ was launched in 2005. That’s moved forward to be an app that you can press, talk your request and Staples will fulfill it. The App uses Watson’s conversational services. There’s also a package tracker that customers can just ask ‘where is my package?’. The app mines structured and unstructured data from both Staples and their partners. Staples has been learning and is moving from a traditional retail company to a services company for businesses. Writing bots and services using the cognitive API’s can be super quick. The Watson IoT platform is managing all of the buttons out with customers. Staples is now thinking about how to use cognitive capabilities across their whole enterprise.

A video showed Ryan Leslie, musician and producer talk about his startup ‘Super-Phone’. Super-phone allows anyone to turn their cell number to their most powerful social handle. It uses Twilio to then analyse the social sentiment of anyone’s messages posted to social media.

Shay Strong, Chief Data Scientist, OmniEarth talked about water conservation. The company is using Watson visual recognition to process photos of landscaping and water usage 40 times faster than they had been able to do before. This helps identify where water is being wasted. For example, Watson can search for pools by learning what is a pool and what looks like a pool – but isn’t. And combine that with water usage to see where problems might exist.

John Smith, IBM Fellow, Manager of Multimedia and Vision, T.J. Watson Research Center, talked about some of the next generation apps for Watson. John began with how Watson visual will go to the next level. He took the example of identifying skin cancer using Watson’s visual recognition. Images are captured with an iPhone and analysed by Watson’s servers to provide immediate feedback. Food, fashion, video visual sentiment are all on the horizon for Watson to work on and provide to developers.

Bob Lord concluded with three asks:

  1. take advantage of the experts
  2. set your own agenda
  3. have fun – and show us what you make with Watson.

Everyone then headed off to the sessions with an excited buzz in the innovation hangar.

If you’re interested in developing cognitive solutions with Watson, you can find out more from Anne Ahola Ward and what she learned at World of Watson in Las Vegas at the end of October and check out IBM’s Storify collection of World of Watson highlights.