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Innovation & Startups

IBM's Watson? CMU will develop an app for that

This fall, students at Carnegie Mellon University will have unprecedented access to IBM’s Watson cognitive technology, which famously beat Jeopardy! champions in a 2011 on-air showdown. Students in a new computer science course will develop mobile applications for the artificially intelligent computer that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence and learning as it goes.
 
The IBM Watson Group is working with CMU and six other universities to offer cognitive computing courses this fall that will give students the technical knowledge and hands-on experience needed to create new applications for the system.
 
The new course, Intelligent Information Systems Featuring IBM’s Watson, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and will focus on mobile applications of Watson. Eric Nyberg, a professor in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI) in the School of Computer Science and a leading researcher in question-answering computer systems, is one of the course’s instructors.
 
“The home run we’re looking for is to add our vision to IBM’s technology to create an application that is useful and worthy of being spun off as a product,” says Nyberg.
 
Nyberg and his students began working with IBM on Watson in 2007 and have collaborated with IBM on the Open Advancement of Question-Answering Initiative. The effort created system architectures and methodologies that support systems like Watson that can understand questions as expressed by people and search through massive databases to respond appropriately.
 
Applications undertaken by the class may be related to healthcare or energy, but Nyberg says he is interested to see what other ideas might be hatched by students in the course.
 
The initiative is part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen student skills and understanding of big data and analytics in order to meet the growing demand for highly skilled analytics workers.
 
“By putting Watson in the hands of tomorrow’s innovators, we are unleashing the creativity of the academic community into a fast-growing ecosystem of partners who are building transformative cognitive computing applications,” says Michael Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group. “This is how we will make cognitive the new standard of computing across the globe: by inspiring all catalysts of innovation, from university campuses to start-up offices, to take Watson's capabilities and create."
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