Friday, February 18, 2011

This Has Some Pretty Amazing Implications. Who Knows Where it Can Lead?

The following has been receiving a fair bit of international coverage in the last day or so.

Watson: From Jeopardy to the Hospital?

IBM touts its computer's potential in medicine

February 15, 2011|BY WILLIAM WEIR,, The Hartford Courant

Watson the computer had proven itself a formidable force this week in answering questions about Olympic oddities and literary characters on "Jeopardy!" Might it be answering your doctor's questions about your health in the future?

That's how representatives for IBM — Watson's creator — see it. In the near future, they say, the technology that has gone into Watson can help doctors crunch massive amounts of data and eliminate human error when it comes to diagnosing conditions and prescribing medications.

The computing system was built by researchers from eight universities and IBM, reportedly at a cost of up to $2 billion. IBM officials boast that Watson doesn't just draw from a huge database of information, but can understand the idiosyncrasies of human language.

That's why it's able to answer "Jeopardy!" questions, which often feature wordplay. So far, it seems to be working. On Monday's show, the first of three, Watson tied for the lead at $5,000 with Brad Rutter, who holds the record for the most cash won on "Jeopardy." Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest run on "Jeopardy!," trails at $2,000.

But ruling "Jeopardy!" is just the beginning, said Katharine Frase, vice president of IBM research. For instance, in cardiology, Watson's technology would analyze data to alert doctors to problems such as too much digitalis in blood tests or the overuse of diuretics. And Watson, she said, continues to learn and refine its abilities.

"The machine itself starts adding to its own knowledge base," she said.

Dr. Peter Schulman, a cardiologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center, cautioned against putting too much faith in fancy circuitry. Technology companies regularly talk about how their latest innovations will help medicine, Schulman said, but many don't pan out as promised.

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There is more coverage here:

IBM Moving Watson Supercomputer Beyond 'Jeopardy' To Health-Care

By Shara Tibken


After trouncing "Jeopardy!'s" best and brightest, International Business Machines Corp.'s (IBM) Watson supercomputer is on to a new challenge--health-care.

IBM said it has reached a research agreement with Nuance Communications Inc. (NUAN), a provider of speech-recognition technology, to "explore, develop and commercialize" the Watson computing system's advanced analytics capabilities in the health-care industry.

Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine will be providing their medical expertise and research.

Watson, powered by 90 servers and 360 computer chips, was built over the past four years by a team of IBM researchers who set out to develop a machine that could quickly answer complex questions involving puns and wordplay.

The room-sized system competed against former "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter for three nights this week, finally winning the challenge Wednesday with a score of $77,147. Jennings finished with $24,000 and Rutter had $21,600. The victory nets Watson a total prize of $1 million, which IBM will be donating to charity. Jennings and Rutter get $300,000 and $200,000, respectively, with plans to donate half to charities.

After optimizing Watson for "Jeopardy!" play, IBM researchers are working to apply the system to business uses, such as helping physicians and nurses find answers within huge volumes of information. A doctor considering a patient's diagnosis could use Watson's analytics technology along with Nuance's voice and clinical language understanding offerings to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases and latest knowledge in medical journals to gain information from more potential sources then previously possible, making the physician more confident in the patient's diagnosis, IBM said.

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The mind just boggles to think what might flow from this. Automated history taking, radiological image diagnosis and who knows what else. This is e-Health of a totally different sort!

Certainly gives new meaning to artificial intelligence in medicine!

See what happens when you spend billions on R & D as IBM does. Occasionally something really amazing pops out!


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