IBM's Watson Chooses His First University #ibmconnect

2 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

Watson is going to college. That is, IBM’s Watson, as in the digital youngster that showed carbon-based Jeopardy champions you don’t need to be human to provide answers in the form of questions -- and to win on that venerable quiz show.

IBM has donated a modified version of the Watson computer system to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, making the first such award to a university. Watson will be involved in leading-edge research, developing new uses, expanding his cognitive abilities and helping to train students in cognitive computing and analytics.

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Back to School

Since his historic victory on live television, Watson has not exactly been relaxing on the beach. His ability to find and apply facts is being applied to a variety of fields, such as helping doctors make faster, more accurate diagnoses. At Rensselaer, researchers and students will look for new applications in such fields as finance, information tech and business analytics.

Watson will arrive well-equipped for the university experience. His 15 terabytes of storage will house about the same amount of data as he held for Jeopardy, and he will support 20 simultaneous users. In addition to hardware, IBM will provide software and training as part of a Shared University Research Award from the company.

Learning Opportunities

Rensselaer and Watson go way back. Several key members of Watson’s parents, the IBM research team, are alumni of Rensselaer, which is the oldest technological university in the country. The university was also one of eight that collaborated with IBM to develop the open architecture which enabled Watson’s question-and-answer abilities. IBM is also a partner in the school’s supercomputer center, which this Watson offspring will now call home.

Big Data + IBM + Colleges

In addition to furthering research into new ways Watson can make his way in the world, the gift to Rensselaer is the latest in IBM’s efforts to support research in, and grow talent for, Big Data. In November, for instance, the company established an analytics hub in Nova Scotia in a partnership with 13 campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College.

Later in November, IBM announced another analytics center partnering with a university, this time in Ohio and tied in with Ohio State. The company is also involved with Big Data on a variety of other fronts, as it recently announced a Security Intelligence with Big Data solution during its IBM Connect conference in Florida.