What Does Watson Win Mean for Computers?

By Megan Trent

February 21, 2011 Updated Feb 21, 2011 at 7:26 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - In the wake of Watson, an IBM computer, beating out two flesh-and-blood men in a highly publicized game of Jeopardy, Indiana's NewsCenter spoke with a local computer expert to find out what this technological breakthrough could mean for businesses and consumers.

It's not so elementary, my dear Watson - think Star Trek meets the Jetsons. It's a computer that understands questions (even humor) and can respond immediately. And many experts are saying it's going to change the way we access information.

Imagine being able to call a computer similar to Watson on the phone. You could have a conversation with the computer and get back the exact information you need on the spot. At work, your next personal assistant could come on a software disc. Designers and engineers could use the technology to archive projects, and then reference what worked well and what didn't. Much like the Jetsons, a computer chip in your house could tell you exactly what happened while you were away.

Robert Kniskern, President of Adaptive Microware in Fort Wayne, says to expect major search engines to begin implementing this new technology almost immediately.

"This really represents, I think, a historical moment where finally the critical mass of computing power, software, voice recognition, and speech output is finally getting to the point where you can actually have a conversation with a computer and maybe forget for awhile that you're really dealing with a computer," says Kniskern.

Some believe this is the next step in a world-wide computer takeover - that computers will become so intelligent that real humans become obsolete. Kniskern says, don't worry. Along with most other technology experts, he believes computers are complicated mechanisms, but need human oversight. They don't have a brain or the judgement needed to be capable of edging out the human species.

At least, not yet.

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