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Watson Is Coming To Silicon Valley

IBM reveals its plans for a new office and innovation center dubbed “Watson West.”

Watson Is Coming To Silicon Valley
[Photo: Flickr user Atomic Taco]

Long a New York-based operation, IBM’s famous Jeopardy-winning cognitive computing system Watson is finally coming to Silicon Valley.

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Today, Big Blue announced plans for what it’s calling Watson West, a new office and innovation center meant to introduce the rapidly growing Watson ecosystem to San Francisco area entrepreneurs and investors.

For years, IBM has hosted an “experience center” in Manhattan’s Astor Place, inviting entrepreneurs, investors, and customers to visit and hear its vision for how Watson can “transform business,” said Lauri Saft, IBM’s Watson Ecosystem and Partner Programs vice president.

Now, with the new center opening in San Francisco’s tech-heavy South of Market district, Silicon Valley will get its first up-close-and-personal look at the cognitive computing system, and, IBM hopes, see how the platform can be used to integrate into a wide variety of products and services.

According to Saft, Watson West will operate much like the company’s Astor Place Watson facility, and the new team will be led by IBM Cognitive Commerce general manager Deepak Advani. Watson West will be open every day to potential customers, as well as anyone who might want to incorporate Watson into their tools, to see existing use cases and talk to experts about the many Watson APIs.

Watson West will open its doors in mid-2016, Saft said.

Diverse Set Of APIs

In the years since Watson’s famous 2011 defeat of the world’s-best Jeopardy players, IBM has worked hard to turn the platform into a powerful business machine. Part of that has been the development of dozens of APIs. At the time of the Jeopardy championship, Watson used a single API, known as Question & Answer, that had five underlying technologies: Natural language processing, machine learning, question analysis, feature engineering, and ontology analysis.

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Now, the Watson platform has grown to include 27 separate APIs that range from face detection to speech-to-text and text-to-speech, keyword extraction, and more. Watson has even been used to help analyze the tone in people’s writing.

As IBM has expanded its API catalog, it’s also grown its network of those using the system as part of their businesses.

To date, Saft said, there are 100 companies incorporating Watson in products or services that are already on the market. In addition, there are about 250 more who are in the process of building Watson-based tools.

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About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications

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