When many of us last heard about Watson, the artificially-intelligent computer that scientists at IBM programmed to understand and respond to questions asked in normal language, it was destroying Jeopardy! mega winners Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the famous quiz show, winning $1 million in prize money.
But Watson’s creators wondered if their machine could serve a higher purpose than embarrassing big-brained game show geeks, and now it will. Two weeks ago, IBM and USAA, the insurance company serving over 10 million military members, veterans and their families, announced that Watson’s brain power will be available online to all its members who are looking to transition out of the military and establish civilian careers. All they need to do is enter a query through Ask Watson on USAA’s homepage or mobile app.
Neff Hudson, USAA’s vice president of emerging channels, told Doug Henschen of Information Week, “More and more of the interactions that we’re getting from our members are coming through our digital channels, including our web and mobile sites, so we’re trying to make these channels as adept at delivering advice as a human being in our call center.”
Watson has been programmed to learn from each of its interactions, becoming more helpful at answering questions as it receives more input. Because transitioning from the military can elicit so many complicated questions — from what to do about health insurance, to how to craft a resume that will appeal to a civilian employer, to how to manage saving for retirement or the best way to fund an education — a wise guy like Watson is sure to be of assistance.