University of Texas team hooks $100K in IBM Watson app contest

IBM cognitive computing technology put to creative use by new generation of tech entrepreneurs

University of Texas at Austin, IBM Watson award winners Augusto F Menezes/Feature Photo Service for IBM

The University of Texas at Austin team flashes the school's "hook 'em horns" sign as they celebrate their first place win in the Watson University Competition.

A team of students from the University of Texas at Austin is being awarded $100,000 in seed funding from IBM and the Entrepreneurs' Fund for an app based on IBM's Watson technology that's designed to give Texas citizens easier access to social services. 

The students are the first winners of IBM's Watson University Competition under which the company partnered with schools in an effort to spark fresh ideas around Watson cognitive computing technology. The students, who accessed Watson via their classrooms and the cloud, were challenged to create an app and business plan that exploited Watson's superhuman ability to digest mounds of data and answer queries (see a blog post on IBM's website written by one of the University of Texas at Austin students).

MORE: How IBM's Watson could change your business

The winning app, dubbed CallScout, is designed to give Texas residents a smoother way to navigate government services for transportation healthcare, housing and more, from their mobile devices. Geographical, time and other information is integrated.

Student teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University,  Northwestern University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University of California, Berkeley (third place, for a patent processing app), University of Michigan, and the University of Toronto (second place, with an app for asking legal questions) took part in the competition, making their pitches at Watson headquarters in New York City. 

IBM has been spending big bucks to expand Watson's reach in recent years, including to enterprises as well as researchers.

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