IBM Exec: Watson Use Cases are ‘Endless’

One main takeaway from the second annual O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference in New York City June 26-29 was that we’re still in the early days of AI, but the technology has already been used across a wide range of enterprise sectors and by a wide range of companies and other organizations. And that stands to only continue growing in the years to come.

The use cases for Watson’s capabilities are “endless,” Damion Heredia, VP of Watson Strategic Partnerships at IBM, said. The company has made its cognitive technology available to developers via the public cloud and they can now “stitch together” apps to solve their specific business problems, he told the conference, noting the technology can be used across multiple sectors, including automotive, banking, education, gaming, healthcare, hospitality, law and retailing.

When most people think of AI, they think “machines are looking to dominate the world,” he said, adding: “We don’t view it that way. In fact, at IBM, we use the term augmented intelligence, which is really about scaling human capability and making better decisions, scaling their strengths and [providing] better reasoning.” He pointed out that this sort of initiative is “not new to us as humans,” who have been “fascinated forever with scaling our strengths through technology.”

With IBM’s Watson AI platform, the company is “finding problems and opportunities, and then scaling our strengths with technology,” he said, adding: “The problem” that IBM is working out now is figuring out how to “interpret and understand all the data that is around is,” he told the conference, noting that 95% of the enterprise sector’s data today is “dark data,” which most machines can’t understand and that can’t be used. That has created an “opportunity to help us make better decisions,” he said.

There are “four key traits” that he said IBM has identified to “make that happen”: understand data through analyzation and interpretation; being able to reason by understanding not only the information, but “also the concepts that are driving” the data underneath and are also important; being able to “constantly learn” so that improvements can be made each time the data is used; and “the ability to interact” with the machine via speech, vision and emotion, which he called “the most critical thing to augmented intelligence.” For the latter, Watson enables users to create chat bots that can engage in dialog.

In a separate conference session, Bjorn Austraat, global leader of IBM Watson cognitive visioning and strategy, demonstrated several Watson capabilities, including chat bot creation. Among other pointers, he noted that “scale is really important when thinking about building chat bots.”

IBM continues to improve Watson’s visual recognition, Austraat also said, adding enhancements to be offered soon include local branding detection and face registration by biometrics “in the next few quarters.” Currently, Watson recognizes 22,000 objects, he said.

Among the many other companies touting AI services at the conference was Amper Music, a startup with offices in New York City’s SoHo and Santa Monica, Calif., whose CEO, Drew Silverstein, said it developed an AI-based system with the ability to teach computers to be “intrinsically creative.” Initially, the company offered a Web-based Amper app enabling video content directors and producers — who can’t always afford to pay for music scores — to have their computers create music compositions for their film and video projects.

The app creates the music based on information it gets from the user, including the tone needed for a movie scene.

Since then, the company integrated the Amper AI into Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software and developed an application program interface (API) that Silverstein told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) “allows anyone to integrate our musical brain into any platform or product or software.”

Those two new offerings were recently made available, he said, adding there’s demand for a collaborative tool like Amper’s AI because “digital content creation is continuing to explode” among professionals and consumers, and “we can continue to expect that this trend [will] only pick up steam moving forward as tools like” Amper’s and others “continue to lower the technological bar and the financial requirement that previously was required to join the content creation class.” To date, Amper has raised a little over $5 million in two rounds of funding, he told us.