Watson Looks for Work; April 2011; Scientific American Magazine; by Michael Moyer; 1 Page(s)
A team of IBM researchers spent four years building Watson, a computer system clever enough to beat the best Jeopardy players in the world. And although the three-day competition marked the end of Watson’s game-show career, it was just the beginning of Watson’s life in business.
One of the things that makes Watson unique is its ability to understand natural language—“getting at the meaning of words and understanding what humans meant, not just what they said or wrote,” says Katharine Frase, IBM’s vice president of research. On Jeopardy this means being able to pick through a riddle of a quiz-show clue; in the corporate world it could be used to decipher the needs of a customer. For example, callers to a help desk often “don’t describe the problem in a language that the person on the other end of the phone understands,” Frase says. A Watson-like system would act as a translation tool, turning English into engineerese.