OK, I admit, when I first heard that IBM Research had developed a computer to play Jeopardy, my initial reaction was, "there's a great use of people's time." Then I saw some of the IBM commercials, and I was angry. "Here goes IBM marketing again, can't spend a dime to show Lotus software, but Lord knows how much they've spent marketing this stunt. (At least the IBM hardware folks had to be happy that the Power7 logo was displayed.)"
Then I watched the Nova episode on Watson last week, and my perspective has completely changed. If you missed the episode, I strongly encourage you to take time out and view it (I've embedded it at the bottom of this post).
What was so cool was to learn about how the Watson team used "machine learning" to "teach" Watson how to deconstruct questions to understand what is being asked, and then through many examples of what correct answers to questions are, used its vast database of raw unstructured data to piece together answers to these questions. (Yes, its Jeopardy, so actually it's reversed. Watson deconstructs statements, researches, then constructs questions.) The Nova folks did a fantastic job walking through the development history of Watson, showcasing the challenges the team faced, and describing the methods they used to overcome them. My only critique is that I wished they would have gotten more technical in their description of machine learning. The example of getting a computer to recognize the letter 'A' was great, but I'd love to understand more about the bits and bytes of how this works.
Watching the episode made a convert out of me. I'm completely amazed by what IBM has accomplished with Watson, and look forward to watching it compete on Jeopardy Monday - Wednesday this week (the DVR is all set to record). I guess I'd be surprised if Watson actually beats the two best Jeopardy contestants to ever play the game, but regardless of the outcome, the technology behind Watson holds amazing promise.
I have always been a sci-fi fan, and Isaac Assimov had me hooked at an early age on the idea of artificial intelligence. But where IBM talked about the potential real-life applications of Watson to things like medical treatment and financial analysis, my first thought was to applying this to human learning. Wouldn't it be amazing to have a system that learned about you--not to understand what movie you might want to watch next, or what product it could up-sell you on--but learned about your learning styles and objectives. Imagine it then dynamically assembling learning content from the vast resources of the internet in a manner that you would learn best. Imagine linking all of these systems so that the examples of how Joe and Susy and Ryan learned, could be referenced so that your system would get better and better at this over time.
Human learning has always been a keen interest of mine, so not surprising that's where my thoughts initially went. But then it hit me, what could possibly have more unstructure content than email and social sites like Connections?
What if Watson were put to use to read your email and prompt you on what you may want to do next, such as:
Create an activity
File the email in a folder that matches where you've put similar emails in the past
Create a new folder and file the email
Open a composite application to pull data to answer a question asked
Start a reply to the email based on a template you've used in the past
Recognize that this sender is not in your contacts, and create a pre-populated entry based on the person's email signature
Create a new calendar entry based on the request to meet next Tuesday and populate it with the invitees
I mean, I get all jazzed by live text recognition in Notes (which I think is Majorly underutilized), but talk about a better Outlook! Or imagine being able to ask a question of your social network, and Watson jumping in an suggesting blogs, Wikis or bookmarks you should check out.
So yes, PLEASE, Watson, meet IBM Collaborative Software--I can't wait! (Oh yeah, and good luck on Jeopardy too.)
Thu, Feb 7th 2013 9:10a Phil Salm You can find a more detailed overview of the conference from me on the CDW Solutions Blog, but here are some personal reflections. I'm not exactly sure which year I first began going to Lotusphere--I believe it was 1999, soon after I began working in the e-Learning field at the University of Wisconsin Learning Innovations. Whoever assembled the big picture mural at the conference -- thank you! It was quite fun looking back and remembering. I think I've missed one since 1999. Like for man [read] Keywords: collaboration
Cisco Releases Major Update to Plug-in for Sametime
Thu, Jan 24th 2013 8:12a Phil Salm Cisco released a major update in December to their integration with Sametime, which they are now calling CUCI-IBM. The plug-in is a great step forward over previous integration options, and includes: streamlined UIintegrated softphonevideo calls call historycall forwarding, and much more.You can read a more in-depth overview of the plug-in and see several screenshots of it in the posting I made on the CDW Solutions blog. One integration point I didn't mention in the overview is that both phon [read] Keywords: ibm
CDW Customer Event at IBM Connect
Fri, Jan 4th 2013 9:11a Phil Salm Once again CDW will be hosting a customer appreciation event at the IBM Connect conference. This year's event will be held Tuesday evening, January 29th, and will involve great food, bowling and billiards. If you are a CDW customer attending the conference and would like to attend this event, reach out to your CDW Account Manager and ask for an invitation. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. I look forward to seeing you there! [read] Keywords: collaboration
Invitation to an Open Discussion from Wisconsinites
Thu, May 17th 2012 12:12a Phil Salm I will likely regret this, but I feel compelled to post my views on the Wisconsin Gubernatorial recall election. Why? I'd like to try to generate an open, respectful, and thoughtful discussion to a potentially wider range of Wisconsinites than doing so solely in a closed environment like Facebook allows. Why do I suspect I'll regret it? Well, I was very active in politics in high school--particularly in the anti-abortion movement. I stopped being heavily involved in politics for two primar [read] Keywords: blogger
New Cisco Plug-in Demos
Wed, Apr 11th 2012 5:12p Phil Salm I've put together a couple of video demos of the Cisco Voicemail Plug-in and the Cisco Phone Control and Presence Plug-in. Hopefully they convey some of the great features that they provide. They are best viewed full screen. The plug-ins require that the user is licensed for Sametime Standard. But the plug-ins themselves are free. So if you have Cisco telephony and a Lotus Notes environment today, you really should be looking at deploying them for your end-users. The only additional hardw [read] Keywords: lotus
Wed, Mar 28th 2012 11:12p Phil Salm In this era of big data, we have become infatuated with the promise of how we can improve every aspect of our lives by better collecting data, analyzing it, and managing our lives to various data points. In business if you haven't heard someone in your organization parrot Peter Drucker's mantra that "you can't manage what you don't measure," then you must be running short on fresh MBA's. While I won't argue that there is some truth to this, this path of managing by measurement seems to [read] Keywords: blogger
The Video Mega-Conference with Polycom and IBM
Tue, Jan 24th 2012 9:10p Phil Salm I had the good privilege of attending a launch event at the Polycom Solution Center in Chicago today. Not surprisingly, they have an amazing video-conferencing facility. We had over 300 attendees conferenced together for today's event, from locations including: Santa Clara, Seattle, Dallas, New York, Atlanta and more. If you've not had the good fortune to see one of these Polycom Solution Center's in person, it is worth the time. The video is amazing, and the audio is crystal clear. It [read] Keywords: ibm
Healthcare Solutions at Lotusphere?
Tue, Jan 10th 2012 10:11p Phil Salm As 2012 kicks off, I have some new excitement brewing for me in addition to the annual Lotusphere anticipation. This year I will have a new focus on IBM software solutions for healthcare. This is extremely exciting to me as I get to spend time in a field where information technology can make significant improvements to people's lives, not just bottom lines. And I'm very fortunate to enter this space at a time when leading-edge technology based on IBM's Watson is being transformed and appli [read] Keywords: ibm