IBM Watson

IBM’s Watson.image courtesy of Silicon Angle

The Rise of the Machine

Watson & Sophia

In the three years since IBM first displayed their flagship AI programme Watson on the American quiz show Jeopardy, Watson has become 24 times faster at processing information, with a 2,400% performance improvement, and a 90% reduction in size, shrinking from the size of a large bedroom to the size of a child’s robotic toy. Watson easily answered all the questions on the game show and at the time was capable of processing hundreds of algorithms simultaneously, and detecting subtle nuances in language, including slang and puns.

Watson is currently part of a trial concierge programme at the Hilton Hotel Group. The robot is stationed beside the front desk, and assists the guests in navigating around the hotel, and to provide local information such as restaurants and places of interest. Watson is not the first robot worker, Japan and South Korea have replaced many service jobs with similar technology, in hotels, prison surveillance, and banking. This is the first time the technology has appeared in Western society. Another application of Watson is in the area of medical diagnostics, where in a sample oncology case Watson read 200 journals, 300 medical books, and a million articles to come up with an accurate diagnosis.

Sophia is the latest lifelike robot from Hanson Robotics. Sophia is capable of Machine Learning, numerous facial expressions, an ability to remember people, and is destined for health care, therapy, e-learning and customer service applications.

Sophia Robot

Sophia on the cover of Elle in Brazil. Image courtesy of Hanson Robotics

Many similar advances are being strategically considered by businesses in such areas as medicine, logistics, production, computing, service, and sales, to name but a few.

According to our estimate, 47 percent of total US employment is in the high risk category, meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two.-C.B. Frey, M.A. Osborne (2013)

Global Spend on Robotics

Global Spend on Robotics. Image courtesy of

The growth in the worldwide spend on robotics is increasing at a staggering rate, and is driving record levels of productivity, but fewer jobs. Some of the areas currently experiencing an increase in robotics include:

  • Warehouse Automation
  • Injection moulding,
  • Unmanned ground vehicles
  • Robotic surgery platforms
  • Picking, packing and sorting robots
  • And heavy robotics such as in aerospace or agriculture

Source: Alison Sander and Meldon Wolfgang, “The Rise of Robotics,” Boston Consulting Group, Aug. 27, 2014

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