Watson goes to school

Updated 3/29/2011

Watson, IBM’s Deep Question Answering (DeepQA) computing system, tackled Jeopardy!, Congress and South by Southwest. Now, Principal Investigator Dr. David Ferrucci and members of his team are taking Watson to school for a demonstration with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh faculty and students.

The event on March 30, which will be streamed online (link will be live for event), is an opportunity to discuss the future of DeepQA – Watson’s “next job” – with some of the top academics in the field.

What's next in Question Answering

"I think there are two big areas of future research that need our attention:

One is to learn how to build systems in practical business domains with far fewer resources in terms of time, money and people. We need to build applications with Watson’s level of performance for tasks like financial forecasting and health care, and do it cost effectively.

The second area has to do with making Watson smarter. Watson doesn’t grow up in the real world the way that we do, so it doesn’t have a base of common sense knowledge. That’s one of its weaknesses. An interesting question is going to be how Watson can learn to read and build a knowledge base that’s not just factual knowledge, but knowledge about how the world really works.

Teaching a computer to understand a new domain by reading about it is part of our ongoing research with IBM.

Watson has already vitalized research in question answering. People are starting to realize that question answering can be fast enough and good enough to do real world tasks. That’s going to help us as we apply the Watson technology to other areas."

-- Dr. Eric Nyberg, professor with CMU's Language Technologies Institute who consulted with IBM on the Watson project.
The Symposium's agenda

  • Deep Dive into Deep QA Natural Language Technology with Dr. David Ferrucci and CMU’s Dr. Eric Nyberg
  • Watson Has a New Job – Keynote Dave Ferrucci, Chief Scientist IBM Watson with Dr. David Ferrucci
  • Q&A Panel with experts from IBM, CMU and Pitt, moderated by Bernie Meyerson, vice president of Innovation and University Programs, IBM

The panel members include:

  • Dr. David Ferrucci, principal investigator, IBM Watson
  • Dr. Eric Nyberg, professor, Language Technologies Institute, CMU
  • Dr. Scott Fahlman, professor, Language Technologies Institute, CMU
  • Dr. Jan Wiebe, Professor, Department of Computer Science, director, Intelligent Systems Program, Pitt
  • Dr. Diane Litman, faculty director, Intelligent Systems Program, Pitt
Check the complete schedule for times and topics.

IBM's Academic Initiative

More than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide have joined IBM’s Academic Initiative over the past five years. Since 2003, through its University Relations and Academic Initiative, more than 2.5 million students have been trained on IBM and open source technologies.


Remotely manage servers with a mobile app

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by IBM Senior Technical Staff Member Patrick Bohrer, a research scientist working in mobile systems management.

You can start a car and read a book with a smartphone. But manage a server?

A systems administrator can now monitor an IBM BladeCenter or System x server with the IBM Mobile Remote Systems application – for free.

Walk down an aisle of servers and it’s a myriad of buttons and system indicator lights. Checking on or making changes to a system can be confusing. The IBM Research team in Austin, Texas put the entire interface into a mobile app. Now an administrator can manage and monitor multiple servers from anywhere.

Currently only available for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), the app can check systems’ health in a single view, then drill down to examine an individual system’s state, and even perform tasks such as restarting blades, and changing ownership of the media tray or keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) on BladeCenter servers.

Securing access

In a datacenter, an administrator logs in to a system via a power-on password or maybe a screensaver password. On a mobile device, this credential check may mean unlocking a phone through a simple power-on password.

Once unlocked, the user – and when an administrator is away from work, the “user” may be friends and family – has access to every application on the device.

To avoid this potential breach, the Mobile Systems Remote app requires its own application password. The password is required again when the user wants to make a system change. And the app will erase all of its data after too many incorrect password attempts.

User feedback: expanding devices and systems

Administrators can currently access BladeCenter management modules and System x racks that have RSA2 cards (a PCI card service). The app will soon expand to System x boxes with the latest System x Integrated Management Modules (IMM).

The app is only supported for the iPhone right now, but based on customer and user feedback, look for Android and Blackberry options, soon. Have feedback for the team? Add comments to the user forum.


2011 Nico Habermann Award

Congratulations to Charles Lickel, IBM’s recently retired executive vice president of Global Research Software Strategy, for earning the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) 2011 Nico Habermann Award.

From the CRA:

The Nico Habermann award is given for outstanding contributions aimed at increasing the numbers and/or successes of underrepresented groups in the computing research community.

Charles' accomplishments have had an impact at the national, local, and individual levels for underrepresented groups, and particularly for researchers in the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) computing community. Within IBM Research, he developed a series of leadership conferences for the GLBT employees. These conferences led to his appointment by the UCLA Anderson School of Business to create a leadership institute in which employees of companies, such as Microsoft and Pepsi, worked with top professors and business leaders to learn to become effective leaders. His leadership and efforts to develop GLBT leaders and act as their role model resulted in his being honored as one of the Gay Financial Network 25 in 2001.

Outside IBM, in addition to his work at the UCLA Anderson School of Business, Charles also has had an impact on computer science programs within academia – such as Arizona State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, SUNY Albany, and Pace University – through his work on their advisory councils. In 2009, he was awarded the Harvey Milk Alumni Award from SUNY Albany for his outstanding contributions. He has had a significant impact on the universities, their programs, and the students at these universities. In addition to working for the GLBT community, Charles also has been committed to other underrepresented groups in computing and is highly regarded for his leadership within other organizations.