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Fresh off 'Jeopardy!' victory, IBM Watson lands health care job

IBM Watson technology licensed to Nuance to build commercial health care applications

By , Network World
February 17, 2011 11:33 AM ET
IBM's Watson

Network World - IBM's Watson has parleyed its overwhelming victory in this week's "Jeopardy!" challenge into a job developing smart applications for the health care industry.

IBM said it will team Watson's Deep Question Answering, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance Communications' speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding package to diagnose and offer treatment plans for patients that will let hospitals, physicians and payers access critical and timely information. As part of the agreement, IBM has licensed access to the Watson technology to Nuance which makes a variety of intelligent software packages for business and health care communities. The two companies expect the first commercial offerings from their relationship to be available in 18-24 months, IBM stated.

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According to IBM there will be others contributing to the health care relationship. Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are contributing their medical expertise and research to the collaborative effort. Physicians at Columbia University are helping identify critical issues in the practice of medicine where the Watson technology may be able to contribute, and physicians at the University of Maryland are working to identify the best way that a technology like Watson could interact with medical practitioners to provide the maximum assistance, IBM stated.

Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process information to find precise answers, can assist decision makers such as physicians and nurses, unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses, IBM stated.

From IBM: "... a doctor considering a patient's diagnosis could use Watson's analytics technology, in conjunction with Nuance's voice and clinical language understanding solutions, to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible. This could help medical professionals confidently determine the most likely diagnosis and treatment options."

In case you missed it, Watson finished a three-day stint on the game show "Jeopardy!" by trouncing his human opponents. From an IDG News Service story: In the final episode of the prerecorded two-game, three-night match, Watson had trounced the competition, amassing $77,147 in winnings over the two "Jeopardy!" champions it played, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Rutter scored $21,600 and Jennings scored $24,000. Watson also took the $1 million champion prize, which IBM will donate to charity.

IBM researchers spent four years building Watson. The machine is capable of processing 80 trillion operations (teraflops) per second. It runs about 2,800 IBM Power7 processor cores and has 16 terabytes of working memory.

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