The possibilities of Project Lucy

The TED Institute micro-documentary on Project SyNAPSE gave us a look at the future of cognitive computing, with glimpses at some possible practical applications. Those exciting possibilities become positively exhilarating in the Project Lucy micro-documentary, which gives us an idea of the potential for cognitive computing to transform a continent.

The project is a collaboration between IBM researchers in Africa and the company’s business and academic partners to apply IBM Watson to the continent’s biggest challenges. The goal is to use Watson to discover insights from big data and develop commercially viable solutions in the areas of energy, healthcare, water and sanitation, agriculture, human mobility and education. 

It is this last area that is the particular focus of IBM researcher Dr. Charity Wayua. In the film, the Kenya-based Wayua lays out the ambitions for cognitive computing to give teachers greater ability to deal with crowded classrooms. Armed with data-based insights, teachers can address needs and situations on a student-by-student basis.

While Africa’s challenges are daunting, it is far from the only place where classrooms are overcrowded, teachers are overstretched, and children are underserved. The potential impact on Africa’s education systems is awesome to contemplate, and it’s easy to see how the benefits could be replicated around the globe. Add in the other challenges Project Lucy is tackling and the potential for cognitive computing to improve the lives of millions becomes even greater. 

“For the African continent,” said Wayua, “I think this is going to be our 'big bet' on transformation.” If that big bet pays off, it won’t just transform Africa, it will transform the world.

Editor's note: This article is by Jonathan Batty, external relations leader for IBM's global labs.

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