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May 22, 2014

Cognea AI now Part of IBM Watson Group

One theme that keeps reappearing in science fiction movies is computers with cognitive skills that are able to interact with the people around them. We don't exactly know when that time will get here, but it is on the drawing boards of many companies around the world. When this technology finally comes to fruition, it will introduce new levels of efficiency and productivity across virtually every industry. One company that has been working on artificial intelligence is IBM (News - Alert) and its Watson Group.  IBM’s acquisition of Cognea AI, developer of cognitive computing and conversational artificial intelligence platform, will bring the company one step closer to making the dreams of many Sci-Fi fans a reality.

The IBM Watson Group is probably best known for its appearance on Jeopardy when it beat two former champions. That exhibition showed the potential of artificial intelligence by being able to fully understand many of the nuances of human communication and answering questions by quickly mining massive amounts of data. What that system lacked in personality, they hope to make up by using Cognea's technology.

"We believe this focus on creating depth of personality, when combined with an understanding of the users’ personalities will create a new level of interaction that is far beyond today’s ‘talking’ smartphones," wrote Michael Rhodin, senior vice president of the Watson Group, in a blog post.

IBM has already collaborated with outside developers by offering this technology so they can deliver conversational services. The goal is to provide the powerful computational services of Watson in the cloud so developers can create applications. One company that has used this technology is Fluid.

The company has created the Fluid Expert Shopper (XPS), an intuitive platform that answers the questions shoppers ask with the most relevant answer. The North Face is one retail chain that has used the technology effectively. All you have to do is walk into the store and ask the tablet what gear you need to climb the Matterhorn in December for three people. After some processing it will display everything from thermal socks to weather reports for that particular day in December.

"The common theme is the ability to interact with information in an intuitive, natural way and take advantage of a system that gets progressively smarter as it absorbs more information," said Steve Gold, VP of the IBM Watson Ecosystem.

This technology is going to dramatically change the way we do everything with computers. As Rhodin wrote, "Smart machines will serve as virtual personal assistants, health coaches, companions for elderly people, investment advisors, tutors, travel agents, customer care agents, shopping advisors…," the possibilities are limitless.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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