Categories: InnovationResearch

IBM Opens Up Watson With Additional APIs

IBM continues to push the development of Watson, the firm’s deep learning artificial intelligence supercomputer.

Big Blue has announced that it has expanded the available APIs for developers who are creating products, services and applications embedded with Watson.

Developer Push

IBM made the announcement during its forum on cognitive computing and Artificial Intelligence, revealing that the new APIs, offered through the Watson Developer Cloud, include advanced language, speech, and vision services, and developer tools.

“In less than two years, the Watson platform has evolved from one API and a limited set of application-specific deep Q&A capabilities to more than 25 APIs powered by over 50 technologies,” the company said.

And finally IBM has released a set of developer tools that “significantly reduce the time required to combine Watson APIs and data sets.” IBM says the tools make it easy to embed Watson APIs in any form factor from mobile devices, cloud services, and connected systems.

For language IBM has tweaked its services to enable cognitive applications to understand the ambiguities of natural language in text. “For example, IBM Watson Natural Language Classifier enables developers to build products and applications that understand intent and meaning, finding answers for users even when questions are asked in varying ways,” IBM said.

On the vision side, IBM Watson Visual Insights allows developers to build apps that reveal insights from social media images and video. It should be noted however that this is currently only available as an experimental service.

On the speech angle, IBM had added new tools for IBM Speech to Text and IBM Text to Speech services. These tools allow developers to create mobile apps in multiple languages.

New Additions

IBM is committed to the development of the IBM Watson platform. Indeed in March this year IBM acquired a cognitive computing company called AlchemyAPI. That acquisition allowed IBM to take on board a pool of more than 40,000 developers that have worked on the AlchemyAPI platform to build cognitive-infused applications.

“Since introducing the Watson development platform, thousands of people have used these technologies in new and inventive ways, and many have done so without extensive experience as a coder or data scientist,” said Mike Rhodin, senior VP, IBM Watson. “We believe that by opening Watson to all, and continuously expanding what it can do, we are democratising the power of data, and with it innovation.”

In addition to all this, IBM has also expanded its presence in the Bay area with a new Cognitive Computing Hub in San Francisco. The idea is that the hub will act as a bridge between local start ups, developers, VC groups, businesses and academic experts, and IBM professionals. IBM hopes this will help deliver and develop new cognitive computing capabilities.

Monetising Watson

There is little doubt that Big Blue is working hard to monetise Watson. Indeed, it was back in January 2014 that IBM officially launched the dedicated IBM Watson unit. That business unit is dedicated to developing and commercialising the cloud-delivered cognitive computing technology.

That move signified a strategic shift by IBM to turnaround its falling revenues and deliver a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover insights from massive amounts of Big Data. Indeed, IBM invested $1 billion (£655m) into the Watson unit, focusing on development and research, and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market.

IBM CEO Gina Rometty has previously said that Watson will make $10 billion (£6.6bn) in annual revenue within 10 years. But it has its work cut out, as Watson only managed to bring in $100m (£66m) in 2013.

So it is fair to say that IBM has so far struggled to monetise Watson, but it hoping that by tapping in to a large developer base as well as continuing research into vertical markets, such as the health industry, revenue should start to increase.

Earlier this month, IBM announced new headquarters and new leadership for its Watson Health unit, along with new Watson Health Cloud capabilities and a series of new partnerships for the organisation.

Think you know Big Blue? Take our IBM quiz here!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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