IBM Watson learning new tricks for data discovery, Q&A sessions

​IBM Watson continues to grow up as its parent company strives to demonstrate the wunderkind supercomputer's potential beyond just winning a TV game show a few years ago.

IBM Watson continues to grow up as its parent company strives to demonstrate the wunderkind supercomputer's potential beyond just winning a TV game show a few years ago.

Big Blue's latest developments for churning machine data into digital cognitive learning breakthroughs actually start with tackling a rather mundane discovery method.

That would be the question and answer (Q&A) session.

But anyone who has engaged in a Q&A session with digital personal assistants such as Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana or Amazon's Alexa will know that this process can often become complicated quickly.

Looking beyond just simple conversations to feed Watson's digital brain for analysis, IBM rattled off a roster of new partners at centers of higher learning that specialize in processing natural language dialogue, reasoning and theorizing.

Among them are students researching obesity correlations for a health informatics class at the University of West Florida and Benco Dental, touted to be the largest privately-owned dental supply distributor in the United States.

The Pennsylvania-based dental product company is relying on the natural language search skills in Watson Analytics in questioning the effectiveness of traditional marketing campaigns.

But natural language recognition is just one of Watson's many budding senses. IBM is cooking up more data discovery models, collectively dubbed "Expert Storybooks."

Hinted at by the elementary level moniker, these models could potentially serve as starter guides for businesses looking into how to deploy Watson Analytics for pinpointing patterns and forecasts most relevant to their line of work.

With 10 businesses already in line for Storybooks, including The Weather Channel and the American Marketing Association, IBM explained the inspiration behind Storybooks reflects an increasing shift toward a "self-service" model for data analytics.

Twitter, for example, is behind a Storybook honing in on social media data that could measure reputational risks while also serving up insights about how social sentiment drives stock price fluctuations.

The Expert Storybooks for Watson Analytics are scheduled to roll out in beta this November.

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