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How Watson Works: A Conversation With Eric Brown, IBM Research Manager

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IBM Research Manager Eric Brown

IBM Research Manager Eric Brown

Credit: IBM

IBM's deep Question Answering (DeepQA) system, codenamed Watson, will compete against human champions in Jeopardy! tournaments in February. IBM research manager Eric Brown says that "we're basically using Jeopardy! as a benchmark or a challenge problem to drive the development of [DeepQA] technology, and as a way to measure the progress of the technology." Brown says Watson can comprehend a broad diversity of questions using open-ended natural language and provide highly accurate answers, at least within the confines of the game.

Developing a dialogue system that facilitates more natural interaction is an area that researchers want to investigate, especially as DeepQA is applied to other domains, Brown says. The direction that researchers are taking DeepQA technology in involves automatic generation of hypotheses and the compilation of evidence to support or disprove the hypotheses, and then evaluation of the evidence through an open, pluggable architecture of analytics, followed by the combination and weighing of the results to assess the hypotheses and make recommendations.

Brown says IBM's initial focus for DeepQA is the medical or health care domains. Other applications currently under consideration include help desk, tech support, and business intelligence.

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