The six years since IBM ushered in the new era of Cognitive Business have witnessed several pivotal transitions. The massive system of servers and disk drives that beat Jeopardy! using an advance orchestration of machine learning, natural language processing and statistical reasoning has evolved into a sophisticated set of services delivered through a world class cloud infrastructure. To help you understand the direction of these enhancements and their impact on Cognitive Business, the IBM Analytics Solution Center was pleased to have Rob High, IBM Fellow, VP and CTO Watson Solutions, present on the future of cognitive augmented intelligence.
Rob started by taking us back to the Jeopardy Challenge in 2011, reminding us how hard it is for a machine to answer a question correctly, but also how good people, like Ken Jennings, are at answering questions. What changed that allowed Watson to win at the game of Jeopardy? IBM took a different approach than classical AI which focused on semantics, ontologies, and rules -- IBM focused on linguistics and the use of machine learning to help uncover signals to the right answer.
Rob cited the consulting firm IDC’s Futurescape report that said that “by 2018, half of all consumers will regularly interact with services based on cognitive." Why this remarkable adoption of cognitive technologies? We collectively are generating so much data today that we can’t consume and make sense of all we are generating. Doctors can't read everything in their field – they would need to spend 150 hours a week to read everything, leaving no time for doing their job – or sleeping. Every one of us is in a similar situation.
What are Cognitive systems? Cognitive systems have 4 characteristics – they understand, reason, learn, and interact with people. Rob explained that these systems are different from traditional rule-based systems because they are taught based on data rather than programmed. This training data impacts how the system will answer questions – customers will use training data specific to their organization and thus create cognitive systems that conform to their organization’s business approach, and more broadly, its philosophy.
Since the Jeopardy Challenge, IBM has been very active in enhancing the technology and providing new Cognitive offerings. Rob focused on IBM’s latest work on Conversation services. Conversations are much broader than just answering fact-based questions. Conversations, whether between two people, or people and machines, should engage the user, understand the user’s concerns, build on an idea, and leave the user inspired and satisfied at the end of the conversation. In the best conversations, each party comes away from the conversation with new thoughts that were generated within the conversation. It will be hard to develop such a sophisticated Conversation service but this is our goal.
Rob then showed a video of a future Cognitive Mergers & Acquisition Advisor named Celia that responded to questions from two people analyzing acquisition targets. Celia could understand the conversation between the two people and then interrupted to ask, “It sounds like you are discussing the work we did last week, would you like me to bring up the results from that session?” Imagine a cognitive assistant that could participate in your conference calls, recalling previous action items, checking to see if the items had been accomplished, or performing analysis that it deems pertinent to the discussion.
One of the crowd-pleasers at the Seminar was the demo of “Embodied Cognition” using a Pepper humanoid robot (from Softbank Robotics) connected to Watson Conversation service. Besides answering questions, Pepper would turn to face the speaker, gesture with her (?) hands, and provide inflection in her voice. Pepper can also use the Watson Visual Recognition Service to recognize individuals and Watson Tone Analyzer to understand the user’s emotional state. Although the answers were no different than what Watson could provide without the Pepper embodiment, the human-like interactions were a strong draw to the humans attending the seminar!