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Notes from World of Watson 2016

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IBM’s World of Watson served up an impressive smorgasbord this year: topnotch speakers, thought provoking research, roving robots, and Olli, a self-driving bus/tour guide. For those of us who have tracked cognitive computing since its beginning, the most impressive part of the conference was its size: 17,000 people trekking among multiple venues, hundreds of exhibitors. It’s apparent that AI and cognitive computing and IoT are all converging, and that it’s difficult to tease them apart.

Aside from the mandatory linguistic aspects of cognitive computing, we see in this early flowering that vendors are picking and choosing pieces of each with a healthy smattering of new UI design to come up with inventive applications. These range from better customer engagement to security to HR to M&A and health advisors. To say nothing of cognitively inspired craft beers and chocolates.

The emphasis is certainly on augmenting human capabilities rather than autonomous applications. One trend worth noting is embodied cognition: the idea that a device or even a room will engage in dialog, solve problems, recommend, learn and adapt to individuals or to groups. This makes sense. If we look at the history of large technology advances, fascination with the technology comes first, but that technology needs a container in order for it to become ubiquitous: a car, a bus, a phone, a classroom or a wheelchair. Coming soon to your doorstep.

One strong recommendation: check out Tom Friedman’s keynote based on his new book. It wraps social, technical and legal trends into a powerful discussion.

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About the Author:

Hadley Reynolds is Co-founder and Managing Director at the Cognitive Computing Consortium. He is a leading analyst of the search, content management, and knowledge management industries, researching, speaking, and writing on emerging trends in these technologies and their impact on business practice. He currently leads the publications program at the Consortium.
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