TechTip: IBM Renames Its Watson Products

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It seems that over the last month or so, IBM has fairly completely redone the Watson pages on their website. Some are the same, and a few URLs remain unchanged, but I’m afraid you could become confused if you’re trying to use the TechTips from earlier this year as a guide.

Oh, and two of the products that I discussed before have disappeared. You can still get to them using the links I gave in previous tips, but there is no way to get to them from the Watson home page. As a result, I believe that what we are seeing here is a general renaming of the products that are available from Watson.

Products

Do you remember what Watson products are? They are pre-packaged solutions that are available via the cloud on a subscription basis, generally by user and month. They are customizable, but like I said, they come prepackaged, so you don’t need to know anything about Watson to use them.

When you are on the new Watson home page, you can get to the Products page in one of two ways. The first is by clicking on Products and Services on the second line of the home page. The second is by rolling your eyes about halfway down on the left side of the screen to See Watson Products, which is underlined. Both links take you to the same place.

What we see are four basic products: Discovery, Conversation, Virtual Agent, and Knowledge Studio. Virtual Agent and Knowledge Studio we have already discussed in previous tips, but what about Discovery and Conversation?

Discovery

I believe that Discovery is the amalgam of the Explorer and the Analytics Engine from my previous tip, but I don’t know that for a fact.

It allows you to search unstructured text, normalize and enrich it, and then analyze the resultant information. Or you can use a query language to tap into a pre-enriched source, Discovery News, that is updated with over 300,000 new items daily.

The thing that caught my attention right off the bat is the price (although there is a free 30-day trial). It starts at around a grand a month per user per environment, but there are several plans that are more expensive if that’s what you’re looking for. But it’s not the cost; it’s the benefit you get from it. Depending on your business, it may be a steal. Although that doesn’t sound right coming from IBM.

The second thing is that this one product does it all, retrieval-wise; it takes structured or unstructured data (eliminating the need for your folks to go through and process data to be structured), retrieves the types of things you are looking for, and then does the analysis on that data.

Conversation

Conversation allows you to quickly build a chatbot and deploy it not just to a single environment but over a messaging platform and even in a physical robot to create “natural conversations.” What I would like to know is whether we could place this technology in the brains of human beings because I have lots of conversations every day that I would never consider “natural.” And if those could be straightened out, it would greatly improve my life. I directed the question to IBM and haven’t heard back yet, although someone from the CIA did try to call me yesterday.

The Conversation product includes a visual Dialog Builder, so there are no coding skills involved. You just have to know some words. The link for this product takes you to a detail page. I tried out the demo, which is set up for use in a car. It started by asking me what I would like, and I replied, “To go fast.” Very patiently and politely, it explained to me that it was designed to turn things on and off and to provide information. So we searched out a gas station very quickly and then turned the radio on. The bot volunteered that it liked jazz best, and I replied, “I like jazz, too, but how about rock?” I was somewhat surprised when it replied, “Great choice. Playing rock for you.” By itself, it appears Conversation is text- oriented versus voice-oriented, but that may change in time.

And the Differences Are?  

You might wonder what the differences are between Conversation and Virtual Agent. Or between Discovery and Knowledge Studio. This is not made clear in the information IBM has online, but over the next couple of months, I will dig into it and try to get a clearer answer than “I am not sure.” But for the moment, these are the rebranded products. Each is available on a subscription basis and requires no coding on your part to get them to work (although there will undoubtedly be some configuration and setup time involved, and you will need to build an environment in which these products can function).

Coming Up Next…

You might notice that there’s one more item listed on the Products page, and that’s the APIs, the other side of IBM’s Watson product offering. We will start to dig into these in the next tip.

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