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Watson and Business Analytics for $100, please Alex
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  cognos jeopardy business_analytics ibmwatson ibmsoftware spss
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In case you missed it, big news out of IBM Research yesterday in the form of "Watson," a new computing system that will compete on the quiz show Jeopardy! against two of the show's most successful contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
Jennings obliterated the previous record for longest winning streak with 74 games in the 2004-2005 season. Rutter won more than $32 million - the highest cumulative amount ever by a single player - through his original appearance on the show and three Tournament wins.
The first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition will air on February 14, 15 and 16, 2011, with two matches being played over three consecutive days.
Watson is named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson and was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge – build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The Jeopardy! format provides the ultimate challenge because the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers typically do not.
I've been watching Jeopardy! for at least 20 years, so I'm officially and unreservedly excited about Watson. No doubt the man-machine showdown will make for great TV. But the Watson team sees significant real-world applications for the system as well. Watson is a leading expression of the IBM vision for Analytics. IBM Business Analtyics software is a large part of that vision made real and accessible to you.
To start, the video below provides a great overview of how Watson fits into our analytics-driven age.
I'll be blogging more about it and its connections to IBM Business Analytics in January. For now, though I can see at least four immediate connections:
1. It never hurts to know the answer. It's all about confidence. Even the best Jeopardy! players will sometimes guess and give the odd question a miss, but Watson won't buzz in unless it's confident it's right. In the the simulations I've seen, it buzzes in every time. Think of confidence you'd gain with Watson at your command.
2. It eliminates ambiguity. Data is by its very nature a "Yes/No" proposition, driven as it is by trillions of transistors that have no choice but to switch on or off. Unfortunately, the humans I know live in the messy world between these two absolutes where "som
3. It brings sanity to an insane amount of data. You don't need me to remind you of the data deluge out there, or of the hours you lose every day trying to answer even the simple questions. How much did you spend with that supplier? Who are your most profitable customers? Who are your top-performing employees? Now think about Watson - to find the right answer it must comb through vast stores of disconnected text, images and statistics and combine them in different ways, over and over, in a split-second and with confidence, against tough and motivated competition. The Watson team thinks it's ready for its test on prime-time TV. I think it could redefine performance under pressure. Imagine if you had its power at your fingertips.
Finally, It's a bold, visionary project. Nothing like Watson has never been done before. It's ambitious. It aims to solve an area of computing that's yet to be solved. It's led by visionaries who aren't afraid to break boundaries. IBM Fellow John Cohn puts our current "Age of Analytics" on par Ages of Iron and Atomic power. Through science, we are redefining the possible to drive tremendous advances in knowledge and significant improvements in our quality of life. That's why Watson is important and why I'm excited to write about it. Your business analytics deployment may not have such lofty goals, but I see the same ambition, energy and willingness to ask bold questions in the Watson team as I do in our most successful and enthusiastic customers.
So - who will win? The current Web poll puts Watson ahead of Ken Jennings by 14 percentage points (52% to 38%) with Rutter a distant third at 10%. Who am I rooting for? The Romantic in me is rooting for the triumph of the human; the Optimist in me is excited about the potential in the machine. After all, if we can leave this much heavy analytical lifting to a computer that never gets tired, how much further could we go as a result?
Catch up with Watson