IBM has acquired for its Watson group, the business unit that develops the eponymous artificial intelligence system, the startup Cognea, which works in just that field. The figure paid for the acquisition hasn’t been disclosed. Cognea develops software for artificial intellegenza to create virtual employees that can work as a personal assistant, coach or as an employee of other types. For IBM, this is another step towards the use of Watson in companies.
IBM has been developing the Watson system for several years to create a true artificial intelligence. Named after Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s first president, it became famous in 2011, when it defeated two winners of the quiz show Jeopardy! but the goal is much more ambitious.
Almost exactly a year ago, IBM launched Watson Engagement Advisor in order to use Watson for customer service in companies. The acquisition of Cognea is supposed to lead to a further step in this type of activity and in general in business activities.
Cognea is a startup founded in 2005 and in those years worked in the field of artificial intelligence developing the MyCyberTwin and the Enterprise Virtual Assistant, virtual employees that can interact with customers and handle complex tasks. It’s evident that the software developed by Cognea will be used to improve Watson’s skills to interact in a natural way with humans. According to Mike Rhodin, vice-president of the IBM Watson group, this is the essential element of cognitive computing, which aims to create accurate models of how the mind perceives, thinks and responds to stimuli.
The Watson system must be able to interact with human beings in a such a way that they can’t understand that it’s a machine. At the moment, Watson is being tested in various companies from different sectors and different countries but a few days ago Mike Rhodin stated that the system is ready for commercialization.
It’s hard to say what will be the consequences of the use of Watson by companies. IBM has already made various experiments using Watson also in the medical field to suggest the treatment of cancer cases by exploiting its ability to analyze huge amount of data, in this case those related to past cases to understand what may be the best treatment in a new case.
In short, in the coming years IBM could bring artificial intelligence systems in various contexts. At that point, we’ll see if Watson will really be able to provide the best answers to practical problems.