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Watson ‘an interesting challenge’ for marketers, says IBM VP marketing and communications Caroline Taylor

IBM’s cognitive computing platform Watson, is “an interesting challenge for a marketer”, according the company’s vice president of marketing and communications Caroline Taylor, who likened the platform to “the crown jewels” due to the excitement and hype around it.

Speaking to The Drum Taylor revealed that IBM has to be extremely careful in the way that it markets Watson, because it wants to focus on how the platform can be truly transformation to people’s lives, rather than the novelty aspect – such as when it beat humans on US game show Jeopardy.

“Here is a computer essentially that managed to beat human beings at a very complex game show and so it had this kudos and interest amongst people,” she remarked.

“It’s a great advocate really to get people to think about computing and technology in a different way. But in terms of how we market it we have to be a little bit careful because everybody is really interested in it; we could profile Watson at every event we go to and on every web page, but we have to keep focus on how you use this capability to be really game-changing and transformational.”

This week a slew of new partners for Watson, which has the ability to interact in natural language and process vast amounts of disparate forms of big data, were announced, alongside the opening of its New York office.

The move signals the acceleration of IBM’s vision to commercialise Watson, as it forms partnerships with travel, retail and not for profit companies, and Taylor said that its capabilities can be applied to almost any sector.

“It’s interesting how we started out in healthcare but actually it has the potential to be applied to every industry, to every kind of commercial organisation and every kind of public sector organisation.

“You’ll see us introduce new, Watson capabilities and solutions across the board as we go forward. But it’s a curious thing, it’s not something we have to hype because actually it's doing that all by itself; the sheer excitement of seeing it proven. People have talked about cognitive computing and artificial intelligence for a long time, Watson is the first true evocation of making that real.”

Taylor said that the ultimate aim for Watson is to exemplify the art of the possible with technology and computing, but made clear that the platform will not replace human beings, it will merely advise and recommend, with humans making the ultimate decision.

Speaking about the scope of the internet of things (IoT) for advertisers, Taylor stressed that it will be important for the insight advertisers and publishers will be able to gather, alongside the ability to change the way personalised advertising is delivered. She commented that it will remove the personal but irrelevant advertising that currently follows consumers around the internet as they shop.

“We [can] get so much more information that will enable us to become more personal and much more relevant in our advertising,” she said.

“In fact it puts me in mind of an example – this issue that when you go searching online for stuff and you find what you want and maybe you buy it, then four months later you’re still being followed around by that tent that you already bought and it’s not relevant anymore. Personal yes, I’m interested in buying a tent, but not relevant because I’ve already bought it thank you very much.”

On augmented reality Taylor expressed her surprise that more large events, such as sports and trade, aren’t employing it to enhance the experience for those attending. She drew on the example of an augmented reality app that IBM previously created for Wimbledon; it allowed those in the grounds to hold up their phone to find their way around and engage with what was happening on the courts.

She added that artificial intelligence has “a poor definition”, with people still likening it to a sci-fi phenomenon. However, Taylor predicted that fusing the cognitive computing and natural language processing, as Watson does, could lead to solutions such as hands free internet surfing.

“There are amazing things that you can do with applying that approach [of combining cognitive computing and natural language processing] to all kinds of life problems. So a simple example is if you wanted to use the internet in a hands free mode; how would you do that? How do you surf the net if you’re not doing it with your fingers on a key board or on a touch screen?

“If you use natural language processing and machine learning, which are two fundamental pieces of artificial intelligence, you can actually start to create a hands free internet experience.”

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