Remember IBM’s Watson? He’s Still Here.

The celeb computer is branching out from game shows to medical and financial analysis


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If it all sounds a little frightening—“Dr. Watson will see you now”—the partners involved are quick to say that Watson will never replace physicians. It is referred to as “a very smart assistant.” That “smart assistant” has also garnered other deals. Among them: The Cleveland Clinic is also using Watson to help train medical students using questions from the US Medical Licensing Exam. WellPoint Inc., an insurance company, is training Watson to help analyze claims, and researchers in pharmaceuticals are exploring Watson’s potential for developing new drugs.

Watson could also be of use in financial services where data overload is daunting. IBM is collaborating with institutions to explore possible applications in areas like customer interactions, and in streamlining the banking experience for consumers. 

And then there’s customer service. Last May, IBM rolled out the Watson Engagement Advisor, designed to be a significant improvement over traditional customer-contact centers. Instead of sending frustrated consumers through an endless trail of irrelevant phone-tree options, IBM believes Watson has what it takes to understand more precisely what the customer wants and to respond efficiently. Watson could do this through a variety of platforms, including television, tablets, and smartphones.

Should we all worry that Watson will be after our jobs? “It’s a persistent fear that we have seen with technology—that humans will no longer be needed. It’s happened with each innovation. I think you will see, as we have with steam engines, that Watson has a rightful place to make us better, as individuals, as employees, as humans,” says IBM’s Steve Gold. 

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