Watson Assistant, the latest entry into the AI-powered virtual assistant market, made its debut on Tuesday at IBM’s Think conference in Las Vegas, CNET’s Ben Fox Rubin reports. Unlike Amazon’s consumer-focused Alexa, however, Watson Assistant is an enterprise-oriented technology that “will function as the behind-the-scenes brains for a variety of new digital helpers made by a variety of businesses”:
For example, Watson Assistant is already in use at Munich Airport to power a robot that can tell you directions and gate information. The assistant is in development by BMW for an in-car voice helper. Also, Chameleon Technology in the UK created a Watson Assistant-driven platform called I-VIE that helps people manage their energy usage.
“We looked at the market for assistants and realized there was something else needed to make it easier for companies to use,” said Bret Greenstein, IBM’s global vice president for IoT products. …
Automation driven by the rise of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning is poised to change the working world faster and more dramatically than anything that has come before. This rapid and sudden economic transformation has sparked significant concerns about people losing their jobs to machines: While the roles most susceptible to automation are low-skill positions in fields like manufacturing, retail, and transportation, new technologies promise to have an impact on high-skill fields as well.
In fact, they already are. Quartz’s Dave Gershgorn passes along a story from Japan, where Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is reportedly replacing 34 insurance claim assessors with an AI system based on IBM’s Watson technology:
The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.
Martha Hoelzer/Feature Photo Service for IBM
IBM announced on Tuesday that it will soon allow many of its US employees to take advantage of the company’s Watson AI supercomputer to make cancer treatment decisions and explore clinical trial options with the power of its massive data collection:
Through a unique collaboration with Best Doctors, an expert clinical consultation provider, qualifying IBMers and their family members will have access to Watson’s suite of oncology offerings for insights on cancer treatment options, when covered under IBM’s U.S. medical plan. The benefit will be available as of January 1, 2017. With the patient’s permission, the Best Doctors team will collect medical records and feed relevant data into Watson. Watson will then generate a report, which will be reviewed by world-renowned expert oncologists in the Best Doctors network. The final assessment will be provided to the patient and their treating oncologist. …
The Watson services provided through Best Doctors will include Watson for Oncology, Watson for Genomics, and Watson for Clinical Trial Matching. Watson for Oncology provides clinicians with evidence-based treatment recommendations related to breast, lung, colorectal and gastric cancers. Watson for Clinical Trial Matching helps clinicians match eligible patients with relevant clinical trials. Watson for Genomics analyzes the genomic profile from a patient’s tumor and provides clinicians information about potential cancer-causing mutations, providing insights on targeted therapies.
Leaders at IBM tell the Wall Street Journal‘s Rachel Emma Silverman that Watson will help employees and their oncologists make much better-informed decisions about their care, among other benefits: