Stephen E. Arnold: IBM’s Watch Goes Shopping — Big Data Heuristics Hit a New Low

IO Impotency, IO Sense-Making, IO Tools
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

IBM Watson Apps Due Next Year

December 22, 2013

To what pressing issue is IBM now applying Watson’s superior (artificial) intellect? Why, to shopping, of course. Business Insider reports, “IBM’s Jeopardy-Winning Supercomputer Will Power a ‘Cognitive, Expert Personal Shopper’ App Next Year.” Writer Dylan Love was especially taken by one app on the horizon from a firm called Fluid Retail.

He quotes IBM Watson Solutions VP Stephen Gold:

“Fluid, which builds online shopping experiences for retail businesses to drive customer engagement and conversion, is developing the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper powered by IBM Watson. The app calls upon Watson’s ability to understand the nuances of human language and uncover answers from Big Data. Consumers who use Fluid’s app will interact with rich media and dialogue with Watson, as their newfound cognitive, expert personal shopper. The Fluid app incorporates the information users share and questions they ask to help them make smart, satisfying purchases by putting a knowledgeable sales associate in the hands of consumers, on demand.”

What happened to game shows, fighting cancer, and plain old search? Watson‘s game-show career may be over, and we would certainly like to see more of the tech applied to search. However, IBM is still running with the medical-field advances. One Watson-powered app due out next year, called Hippocrates (PDF), will streamline the process of researching medical device purchases for healthcare facilities. Another, CaféWell Concierge, is being developed by health-management company Welltok. The app will create personalized health itineraries for Welltok users.

So, I guess shopping is not the most pressing area on which Watson is working, just the one able to grab headlines. Isn’t that a relief?

Cynthia Murrell, December 22, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Phi Beta Iota: “Heuristics” is the fancy word for “rules of thunb.” The fundamental starting point for artificial intelligence (AI) is the extraction through interviews and observation of “rules of thumb” from humans that apply nuanced judgement based on experience to complex problem sets. What the above article really means is that IBM is dead in the water with respect to computer-assisted decision-support. IBM has never understood analytic tradecraft, the eighteen functionalities of CATALYST, or how to integrate disparate data sets of data into a coherent geospatially-rooted thinking space. Buying i2 (and sueing Palantir for racketeering) is as close as IBM has gotten.  Very disappointing.

See Also:

1986 Artificial Intelligence and Complex Organizations

1989 Webb (US) CATALYST: Computer-Aided Tools for the Analysis of Science & Technology

Graphic: Analytic Tool-Kit in the Cloud (CATALYST II)

Mini-Me: Palantir’s OSINT Demo + Palantir & All-Source Workstation Round-Up


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