[ExI] Watson on NOVA

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Feb 13 09:28:49 UTC 2011

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 8:58 AM, Kelly Anderson  wrote:
> While I am clearly jazzed about Watson, and I do know for sure now
> that Watson uses statistical learning algorithms, I am not quite as
> convinced that there is a general solution here. At least not quite
> yet. The types of answers generated seemed to have been heavily
> "tweaked" for Jeopardy. That's not to say that Watson isn't
> interesting, and an important milestone in AI. I think it is both.
> Just that it isn't quite as far down the road of machine understanding
> as I had hoped. Some of the video seemed to indicate that it used some
> kind of statistical proximity based text search engine, rather than
> parsing and understanding English sentences quite so much as I thought
> maybe it did. Of course, since NOVA was presenting things on a general
> audience basis, it may have downplayed any NLP aspect.
> This will be useful technology (assuming it escapes research) I can
> see it answering really useful questions. I hope they build it into a
> search engine. But it does, for the present, seem to be very tweaked
> for Jeopardy... which is, I suppose, what I should have expected.
> Has anybody seen any technical papers by the Watson team? That would
> be interesting in evaluating just how they did it.

IBM PR makes big claims for Watson (but that's their job  :)  ).
Watson's ability to understand the meaning and context of human
language, and rapidly process information to find precise answers to
complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers
help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives.
Watson will enable people to rapidly find specific answers to complex
questions. The technology could be applied in areas such as
healthcare, for accurately diagnosing patients, to improve online
self-service help desks, to provide tourists and citizens with
specific information regarding cities, prompt customer support via
phone, and much more.

This article talks about what the developers are working on:

Looks like they are doing some pretty complex stuff in there.


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