I can barely wait for Feb 14th 2011, when the world will watch “Watson” play the best Jeopardy players ever on National TV. I don’t get to do anything as cool as the gang on Watson team, but being able to say that I work in the same company – IBM – as these folks do, itself is a matter of great pride and honor for me.
For those of you who don’t know of Watson, please check out http://www-03.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/ and then please watch Jeopardy on 2/14/11
Some might ask – what is the big deal here? We know Deep Blue defeated Kasparov. Is there anything to be really excited about a computer that can play a game? And why on earth should any one in enterprise space care about this at all?
Not all SDN members might have seen Jeopardy. So, if you have not yet – then I suggest you first watch a short clip on Youtube to get an idea of how the game is played. And then picture Watson, the super computer, as one of the contestants competing with humans. Or watch an old episode of Star Trek, where questions are asked in English to a computer, who then answers in English.
To begin with, Watson needs to understand human speech – in this case English, spoken with slang, accent, and often with pun. Then it needs to search a huge database ( Watson does not cheat – so no searches on google). Unlike a search engine that returns many possible links where a user can find an answer, Watson has to pick the right answer. And finally, Watson has to frame a question, which in Jeopardy’s case – is the answer. And, all this has to be done in 3 seconds . And to prepare for competition, Watson has to learn a lot – and quickly too. And to top it all – Watson should be able to learn and use already revealed answers, and evolve a game strategy.
Compare this to the best enterprise tools we have today – even for a relatively staightforward question, it is hard to get a concise answer from our existing systems. Imagine the possibilities if Watson’s capabilities are available to a company. It is hard not to get a little excited, I would say.
Watson is built on extremely powerful IBM hardware and IBM Software – code named DeepQA. Please do spend some time on the Watson website, and read about the amazing people who are working on it, and the technology and research behind it. Of special interest to me was how Watson is designed to fire many different algorithms, and then also be able to assess with algorithm to trust for a given context. Massively parallel processing is taken to a level I never thought possible.
This is innovation at its best – and it is not just some vendor marketing talk. Watson already has done some trial matches – in public – and came out on top most times. Here is one of those http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFR3lOm_xhE
Winning is not the big deal here – and while I hope Watson wins hands down on 14th – I am just excited that such an amazing concept could be brought to life in just about 3 years or so. AI has been a topic out of the realms of the enterprise for the most part, and now we realize how close we are to reaping benefits from this.
It is only 8 more days to the show – did I say I can’t wait?