IBM’s Ginni Rometty Reveals Watson’s Future

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty took to the stage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit to showcase updated Watson technology. You may know Watson as the bot that beat humans on Jeopardy!. However, since that time, Big Blue has been improving the program in ways that could help the computer not just learn, but also reason, according to Rometty. Part of her reveal on stage was a new program called Watson Oncology that provides medical diagnostics to far reaches of the world where access to modern medical technology is limited.

The idea behind the oncology program is to connect patients in Southeast Asia with medical diagnostics not previously available to this region of the world. Rometty mentioned that over 1 million patients would be able to have access to medical research for things such as breast cancer.

Medicine is one high-value area for Watson. Might there be a role for venture capital there? There might be, in areas such as interfaces and certain specialized areas.

But here’s what’s more interesting. That’s a high-value area; we are also now about to come out with Watson in what we consider as an advisor, and it will be in volume around research-oriented industries. Think of things like pharma; or as a client advisor in industries that have huge numbers of end retail clients. And so, think of financial services, think of a telco,” Rometty explained on stage.

This program is in step with a larger vision for Watson. IBM has set aside over $1 billion for the Watson program so far. Eric Sall, VP of worldwide marketing for business analytics at IBM told us about Watson Analytics a few weeks ago, which pulls in big data, creates sophisticated visualizations, and analyzes the information for business purposes.

“Watson is the beginning of a whole series [of robots] where they learn and they reason. They will redefine the experience between man and machine…This information is going to redefine our jobs, our professions, education,” said Rometty.

She also had Watson run a test to determine whether alternative energy should replace fossil fuels. Using IBM research and Watson’s debate technology, Watson was able to scour the information and boil it down to key pros and cons in favor of or against the rising alternative energy industry.