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IBM, SoftBank team up to bring 'localised' Watson to Japan

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IBM? SoftBank? Watson? cognitive computing? cloud?

IBM and SoftBank Telecom Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of SoftBank Corp., have partnered to bring Watson to Japan. The alliance, which involves training Watson to understand Japanese, represents a major milestone in IBM's efforts to speed up the adoption of cognitive computing and shows how SoftBank is transforming Japanese businesses and society.

The goal of the collaboration is for SoftBank and IBM to bring new apps and services powered by Watson to market in the region, by establishing a broad local ecosystem of partners, entrepreneurs and app developers who will apply Watson in innovative ways.

The alliance combines SoftBank's expertise in the Japanese business and technology markets with IBM's Watson cognitive computing technologies, research capabilities and services to help transform entire industries and professions.

IBM Watson

IBM Watson is going to Japan via IBM's alliance with SoftBank. IBM is teaching Watson to speak, and think, in Japanese, one of most difficult languages for a computer to navigate because of its reliance on the complex diagrammatical alphabet known as kanji.

Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyses volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidenced-based answers. Watson represents a new era in computing where systems will understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning and experience.

As part of the collaboration, IBM and SoftBank intend to deliver novel powered-by-Watson cloud-based services. The two organisations will initially target Japan's education, banking, healthcare, insurance and retail industries, where companies are striving to give customers more relevant information about products and services, and improve overall decision making by analysing diverse, high volume data streams.

The alliance builds upon an ongoing, joint technical collaboration around cognitive computing technology between SoftBank and IBM Research Tokyo. Watson's ability to understand Japanese is the result of more than two decades of research and development undertaken by IBM Research in the areas of natural language processing, both in Japanese and other non-European languages. The Japanese language uses thousands of characters, many of which can carry different meanings and pronunciations depending on the context of conversation, the relationships between participants, their age and gender. Like any major language, there are many unique idioms that must be fully understood for natural human interaction.

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