"Questions are asked and answered every day. Question answering (QA) technology aims to deliver the same facility online. It goes further than the more familiar search based on keywords (as in Google, Yahoo, and other search engines), in attempting to recognize what a question expresses and to respond with an actual answer. This simplifies things for users in two ways. First, questions do not often translate into a simple list of keywords. ...Second, QA takes responsibility for providing answers, rather than a searchable list of links to potentially relevant documents (web pages), highlighted by snippets of text that show how the query matched the documents."
– from Bonnie Webber & Nick Webb. Question Answering. In The Handbook of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. Alexander Clark, Chris Fox, Shalom Lappin (Eds.). Wiley, 2010.
IBM's Watson unit is receiving heat today in the form of a scathing equity research report from Jefferies' James Kisner. The group believes that IBM's investment into Watson will struggle to return value to shareholders. In recent years, IBM has increasingly leaned on Watson as one of its core growth units -- a unit that sits as a proxy for projecting IBM's future value. In the early days, IBM's competitive advantage was its longstanding relationships with Fortune 500 companies. IBM Watson effectively operates as a consultancy where the company engages in high-value contracts with corporates to implement Watson technology for specific business cases.
If you pick up your iPhone and ask Apple's personal assistant software the age of Mets third baseman David Wright, you get a direct answer: Wright, born in 1982, is 34 years old. You also get some ancillary information: A photo, his height, a nickname that no one uses. Ask Google's artificially intelligent question-answering system, same deal. But until Monday evening if you were to ask the same question of Alexa, the Amazon system that powers the company's Echo devices, you got a much different response. David Wright, according to Alexa/Echo, is 234 years old -- by far the oldest person on the Mets roster or in professional baseball or in the recorded history of the human race.
In 2011, IBM sent its supercomputer Watson onto the popular American TV quiz show Jeopardy where it succeeded in matching wits with and beating two of the TV show's most successful players. That was over five years ago, but if you ask members of the public to describe IBM Watson, those in the know will say that it's a huge great black mainframe computer that's incredibly smart. Yet according to IBM, that's where you'd be wrong – the computing giant is adamant that the future of artificial intelligence will not be one big scary digital brain, and technology is definitely not going to kill us off one day. "When IBM Watson first came out, we used to think about it as a giant brain in a jar, but it's not that," John Cohn, an IBM Fellow in the IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) division tells IBTimes UK while showing us around IBM's new global IoT headquarters in Munich, Germany. "It's a bunch of tools that you can use to compose systems that interact naturally with humans, learns from their situation, adapting and then applying that knowledge.