Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Siri personal assistant. A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.
Naturally, the biggest catch is to make Watson a handheld device at a price people would pay. IBM also believes it needs improvements in voice and image recognition (for better real-time results) as well as the time it takes Watson to become sufficiently knowledgeable in any subject (“machine learning”).
With Watson, IBM aims to tackle more complex questions. The program will be able to understand oncology well enough to advise doctors on diagnosis and prescriptions, said Martin Kohn, IBM’s chief medical scientist. One iPad application for Watson — a health-care program developed with a Columbia University professor — is being used to demonstrate its medical capabilities for prospective IBM customers.
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