IBM's Watson looks for a role in the home

IBM is working with Whirlpool, Panasonic, Bragi and Nokia to demonstrate how Watson could add cognitive computing capabilities to consumer electronics

Not content with helping cure cancers and winning Jeopardy, Watson wants to get inside our heads and our homes, whispering instructions into our wireless headsets and helping us do our laundry.

That's the message from IBM's global head of Watson IoT, Harriet Green, in a keynote speech here at IFA in Berlin.

IBM will work with appliance maker Whirlpool, TV and camera company Panasonic, wireless headphone designer Bragi and Withings owner Nokia to add Watson's cognitive computing capabilities to their products, the company said.

Those cognitive capabilities could help devices talk with one another, or with us.

For example, a washing machine could tell a dryer what program to use for the clothes it has just washed, or tell its owner when to order more detergent. Computer vision techniques could help security cameras distinguish between friends and strangers or identify suspicious activity. And natural language processing and text-to-speech capabilities could let wireless headphones translate for us or read us instruction manuals when our hands are full.

Watson is already active in the field of healthcare, identifying treatment options for cancer patients, but Nokia is looking into how it could add new capabilities to the company's Withings health monitoring devices to help keep tabs on the elderly or sick.

The joint project is called "Aging in place," said Cedric Hutchings, founder of Withings and now vice president of digital health at Nokia, which bought his company. It will demonstrate how connected healthcare technologies can help monitor patients' health in the home, he said.

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