IBM Watson AI can be used to help companies solve real-world problems, but the company is taking a bit of a risk by using the technology for that purpose, the chief executive officer of Watson Research told CNBC.
IBM is now experimenting with using the Watson platform for problems that require an understanding of the context of the problem, he said.
IBM has partnered with IBM to work on an “accelerated problem solver” that Watson will be used for, Watson Chief Technology Officer Joe Baker said.
Watson is also working on ways to use the AI to make more intuitive user interfaces, Baker said, though it is still early days.
“We’re still trying to figure out how the technology can be useful for a variety of purposes,” Baker said at the CES trade show.
“What we’re trying to do is make it really easy to do a lot of things that are a little bit beyond the scope of what we’ve done so far.”
Watson is already being used in the real world.
The company is working on using the AI on “smart home appliances,” Baker explained.
“You can do a little more than what we have already done with the home appliance stuff,” Baker added.
IBM also has an AI system that can learn about the world.
Watson has already been used in helping companies understand the social ramifications of climate change, Baker explained, and in the military.
Watson can even learn to do simple tasks like count numbers in a way that is familiar to humans.
Watson could be able to predict whether a company will be hit by a meteorite, Baker added, though that could require more research and training.
Watson’s AI could also be used in big data, Baker predicted.
“The idea of using Watson to understand big data is really interesting, and there are some interesting applications where we’re seeing applications where Watson is actually getting more and more powerful,” Baker told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“That’s the big one, for us.
The next big application is maybe in the health care industry.
We think Watson can help a lot with that.”
IBM is also experimenting with “supervised learning,” a type of machine learning that allows a machine to learn without knowing the context or intent of what it is learning.
“This is something that IBM is doing to build on what they’ve done with Watson in other areas, but they’re also building on a different approach to learning that’s much more general,” Baker noted.
IBM’s Watson is the world’s most popular supercomputer, and Baker told reporters in March that Watson was “still not quite as powerful as the best systems we’ve built.”
IBM has been using the supercomputer to help make predictions about the weather and help business customers, but Baker said that Watson could eventually be used on a variety other types of applications.
“That could be things like financial services, financial modeling, that sort of thing,” Baker emphasized.
IBM said Watson would be a big step in helping businesses solve complex problems, and it was building out a more powerful AI system.
IBM Watson is being used by companies in healthcare, education, finance, and healthcare.
Baker said Watson could also help with natural language processing.
Watson already can perform some basic tasks for humans, but that can be a lot more difficult when you need to understand how the language is being interpreted by an AI, Baker noted, so it’s a good opportunity to try and build on Watson’s capabilities.
IBM says Watson can learn from its users and “learn to solve problems as well as to be a better product.”
Watson has been able to do all of this by learning to learn from human users, Baker emphasized, so the technology could be used more broadly to help solve complex tasks.
“I think what we’re really focused on is helping businesses understand their users, and this is where Watson can make a difference,” Baker acknowledged.
Watson and IBM are both investing in AI research, and they are also working to develop better software to support the technology.
“For example, Watson is doing a lot to help people better understand their customers.
This has been a huge part of IBM’s investment in AI,” Baker remarked.