IBM’s Watson computer has gained tremendous publicity in recent months, so it’s with great excitement that the University of Aberdeen can announce that it is the first Scottish university to partner with IBM and give students access to the Watson Engagement Advisor.
The deal will allow students to gain first-hand experience with the system whilst also providing researchers with a range of exciting opportunities to further understanding in this key area.
Watson has been at the forefront of cognitive computing due to its ability to process huge amounts of data via a natural language interface that is capable of learning from each interaction. IBM is experienced in working with universities from around the world, but has thus far not brokered a partnership with any institution in Scotland.
Indeed, the partnership is only the 4th such arrangement with a university in the whole of the UK. It will initially be used by students in the Department of Computing Science in the Semantic Web Engineering module taught by Dr Jeff Z. Pan. Should this initial foray prove successful, it’s hoped that the platform will become available to more programmes across the university.
“The partnership with IBM is an exciting opportunity to advance our research in this area, and provide the next generation of students with experience of the latest techniques in cognitive computing,” Dr Pan says.
The move marks an extension of the partnership between IBM and Aberdeen, who have already been using Watson as part of the EU Marie Curie K-Drive project, which is exploring new ways of tapping into big data for the treatment of cancer.
The project has tapped into Watson’s Q&A, knowledge representation and dialogue capabilities, and the result of this initial project will feed into future EU Horizon 2020 Programme work undertaken by the university.
Dr Pan, who coordinates the K-Drive project, said: “With access to Watson we are providing the next generation of students with experience of the latest techniques in cognitive computing, which puts them in a strong position when it comes to a career in the industry.
“The partnership with IBM is an exciting opportunity to advance our research in this area. Cognitive computing is empowering human decision-making processes by understanding and exploiting data which is structured and unstructured, and our research is focused on how to make the best use of both types of data.”
IBM Academic Initiative Leader, Paul Fryer, said: “Cognitive represents an entirely new model of computing that includes a range of technology innovations in analytics, natural language processing and machine learning. The collaboration between IBM and the University of Aberdeen, which builds on a long-standing relationship, aims to help nurture the next generation of innovators and is the first initiative of this type in Scotland.”