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Discovering what's new at Watson Developer Conference 2016

In 2016, IBM hosted the "Watson Developer Conference" in the San Francisco Bay area. Craftworkz attented the event to discover what's news.

Written by
Michiel Vandendriessche
Founder Raccoons
Let’s go to WatsonDevCon in San Francisco

… were the magic words that came into our minds when we heard there was going to be a big announcement about Watson and the integration in robots. We’re Sam Hendrickx and Michiel Vandendriessche, partners of Craftworkz, a company in the Cronos group, and big fan of IBM Watson and Bluemix. It’s our first time in San Francisco and we’re very excited about leaving our headquarters in Leuven and explore all the magic that is happening in the San Francisco Bay Area at the Watson Developer Conference.

Watson Developer Conference 2016

Watson Developer Conference

You might think WatsonDevCon was just an excuse to visit San Francisco but we actually came here for a reason, or three reasons to be more specific. First of all, there was going to be an announcement about IBM Watson and the integration with robotics and embedded systems. Second of all, we wanted to explore the exploration features of Watson. Since we’re highly invested in the cognitive solutions of Watson for our company and our clients, these were the two topics that we wanted to focus on this conference. Finally, we wanted to make sure the presidential elections would take place without any unexpected outcome. Sadly, the jet lag hit us hard and… yeah… we failed (sorry for that).

Project Intu

Watson is THE AI platform for business

… said Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, in the opening session. IBM has cleary shifted focus to their Watson services in this so called ‘cognitive era’. However, in our experience with the powerful tools that IBM provides us with, there are still some problems. Connecting robots (like our good friend Pepper) to Watson is still a big hassle. Enter Project Intu.

Project Intu is a brand new Watson service released during the event. It allows developers to integrate different cognitive services into more embedded devices such as robots, Raspberry Pi…. As a result, these devices will be able to “interact more naturally” with users via a range of emotions and behaviours, leading to more meaningful and immersive experiences for users.

One of the best examples of where Project Intu might be able to help out developers is in the area of conversation, language and visual recognition. Here, developers can integrate Watson’s abilities with a device’s capabilities to effectively “act out” interactions with users. So, rather than the developer having to program each device or avatar’s individual movements, Project Intu does it for them, combining movements that are appropriate for the specific task the device or avatar is performing, such as greeting a visitor at a hotel, or helping out a customer in a retail store.

We attended very interesting talks about Project Intu and we had very interesting conversations with the lead developers, such as Rob High, CTO of IBM Watson, and Grady Booch, member of IBM’s research department (and inventor of UML). Since they called us ‘power users’ (and yes, we felt very flattered), we were asked to explore this new experimental platform and provide them with feedback. So that’s exactly what we are doing now and the upcoming weeks.

Watson Discovery Service

The second interesting thing announced at this conference is the brand new Watson Discovery Service. It’s a service that builds upon the knowledge they gathered from developing Watson Explorer. Discovery takes all your data (in HTML, JSON, PDF, or Microsoft Word formats), enhances it by applying cognitive enrichments and allows you to extract insights using a powerful and flexible query language. It really removes the barrier between structured and unstructured data and combines the most powerful natural language processing techniques with easy cloud based API’s.

The presentation was given by Elliot Turner, CEO of the Alchemy API, acquired by IBM. We were very fortunate to have a great chat with Elliot after his talk about this new service. We strongly believe it can enhance our projects by finding new insights in data that would never be searchable before.

Wrap up

This conference was very interesting for us. Not only were we able to travel to San Francisco for the very first time, but we met a lot of interesting and important people. We took a sneak peak into the future of IBM’s cloud services and can’t wait to get our hands dirty on them. WatsonDevCon is a truly inspiring event at a very cool location in the Marina District, near the Golden Bridge. The next couple of days, we’ll be visiting the Bay Area. Can’t wait to see what San Francisco has to offer!

Written by
Michiel Vandendriessche
Founder Raccoons

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address. Gaston Geenslaan 11 B4, 3001 Leuven