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IBM Netherlands and VU Amsterdam create education on Watson

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On July 9-10, as part of the Big Data in Society summer school in Amsterdam , a two-day Watson Masterclass was given at the VU University Amsterdam. The course gave students insights into two particular Watson related topics: 1. The system that beat the top human contestants in the live US television show Jeopardy, and 2. Current research being carried out at the VU that aims to make Watson better using the wisdom of the crowd. The course featured introductory as well as in-depth presentations by Lora Aroyo and Chris Welty, and a hands-on human annotation assignment prepared by PhD students working on the topic. The course concluded by a drinks session at IBM, where course participants also received their certificates for attending this first Watson Masterclass.

Some students that participated in this course share their impressions:

Maarten Duijn , IBM Extreme Blue student

“The Watson course was a very informative introduction into cognitive computing. We were given an extensive introduction into Jeopardy! and human annotated data. Using this as a basis, Chris (great speaker!) provided insight into how IBM tackled the Jeopardy challenge and had Watson beat the two top Jeopardy players. Step-by-step we took the journey from wikipedia pages to answers to questions like: “It was the anatomical oddity of U.S. gymnast George Eyser, who won a gold medal on the parallel bars in 1904”. Ending in the submission of Ken (the top human contender) with “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords”. The course ended with another short analysis in human annotated data, stressing that this process, and improving it is one of the most crucial parts of cognitive computing.”

Daniele Di Mitri , IBM Extreme Blue student

“The course consisted of two parts: an hands-on tutorial on the CrowthTruth project and a series of workshop on IBM Watson. I found both parts interesting, especially because they related with my background studies in Artificial intelligence. While the part related to the project was more practical and required more interactions from us attendees, the course was meant to provide an in depth explanation of Watson AI in its early version which participated to the Jeopardy in 2011. Really interesting about this is the fact that those sessions were lectured by professor Chris Welty, one of the core team members who implemented the Jeopardy Watson. Although the course was set on purpose to be basic understandable by everyone, it explained all the core components of Watson. It was particularly nice to change perspective on Watson also: if first it was for me a “black magic”, it became revealed in all its strengths but also weaknesses. Studying AI I am personally interested on the limitations that intelligent systems have, how much they can scale up, when they fail etc; for this reason I particularly liked the fact that there was a specific session on Watson mistakes. Even if the lectures were quite frontal and theoretical, it was nice we were able to ask questions on any detail of Watson and had satisfactory answers.”

Daniel Alami , IBM Extreme Blue student

“Last week, some of the technical Extreme Blue participants were selected to participate in a two-day Watson and crowdsourcing course organized by VU Amsterdam. The course was run by the experts Lora Arroyo, associate professor in the Web and Media Group at VU Amsterdam, and Chris Welty, one of the creators of the Watson cognitive computer. Attending to the Watson course has been an amazing opportunity to get a first-hand account of the pillars and inner workings of cognitive computing. I believe that the cognitive computing model is a world-changing paradigm that will shape the ways in which we interact and collaborate with technology. During the talks, it downed on me that cognitive computers are here to expand human capabilities and not replace them. In fact, humans play a crucial role in feeding these systems with ground truth. Taking part in this exclusive course has allowed me to get a feel for how the future will look like. I am enthusiastic about the things we can do with this technology to tackle many societal issues and build a smarter planet. I highly recommend this course to people who want to contribute in this direction and be part of the change.

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