Remember Watson? Not the assistant to the quirky English detective we all know. (I have to say that the Watson in the series Elementary, a new take on the classic detective story, is an excellent choice). Anyhow, I am referring to the other Watson, the human-trumping Jeopardy!-playing Watson.

Watson

IBM’s Watson

While Watson may not be at par with Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL, IBM’s creation is definitely one of the most advanced computers of our time. Combining natural language processing, machine learning, and hypothesis generation and evaluation, Watson is being used in various applications from healthcare to finance.

Happily, the academe is not exempt from benefitting from Watson, and IBM has taken steps to make sure that students have the chance to take advantage of this technology. Back in September 2012, Michigan State University introduced its students to big data and analytics, with the help of Watson.

This year, students of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a small private university in New York, are going to be treated to a Watson of their own. While it is not the exact Watson that captured the hearts of Jeopardy! enthusiasts, the grant is the first of its kind. The modified version has 15 terabytes of hard disk storage – approximately the same as its predecessor. The system also allows for 20 simultaneous users.

While it may seem that the educational institution has everything to benefit from this grant, IBM also has something to take away. After all, the students and faculty have the skills to fine tune and hone the abilities of Watson in terms of reasoning and cognitive applications. They also plan to work on expanding the volume, types, and sources of data that the system uses to answer questions. A win-win situation at the end of the day.

The logical question, I suppose, is which university will be next in line to receive a similar grant?

In case you missed Watson’s Jeopardy! performance, here is a clip to remedy that.

[Image via Wikipedia]