On a particularly bright day in January, Nitin Mishra decided to write to International Business Machines (IBM). He wanted to experiment. For five months, Mishra, along with his two friends Ankit Dhawan and Deepak Mishra, was trying to develop an app that would discover relevant content, shorten it and deliver it to users. His team was facing the obvious problem: How to make the app that would stand out in the market clutter? They wanted to make an intelligent live news curation and summary app. Their own product monitored trending news and personalised it for users, but it wasn’t really the app that users would swoon over.
In his email, Mishra inquired if IBM would allow him access to Watson. Its cognitive fame had reached India much before the supercomputer officially arrived here.
A week later, much to his surprise, IBM wrote back inviting him to ‘explore’ Watson. It turned out, the co-founder of Awesummly had knocked at IBM’s door just in time. Watson—which can analyse data, relate to it, build patterns and come up with an answer to just about any question—is more than just a service for IBM. The Armonk, New York-based company has invested billions of dollars in Watson. And beginning 2014, it has been building business units around it, abandoning the seven-year long Smarter Planet vision. In late 2013, IBM opened up Watson to the global developer community which by February 2016 counted nearly 80,000 developers and 500 startups and companies among its active users.
So when Mishra wrote to IBM, the latter was making sure that Watson Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) were available in India, one among 45 countries.
Misra and Awesummly did start using Watson, but no longer do so today.
Last week, IBM kicked off the second edition of World of Watson event in Las Vegas, US. For an entire week, the company put on display what prominent clients and its top researchers had done to expand the scope of business using Watson. Going by the news and statements trickling from the event, it appears there wasn’t much participation from India. The country has had a slow start.
India connect (or disconnect?)
Don’t mistake that for a low-key start, though. The first public announcement of Watson’s formal arrival was a memorable one. At upscale Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bengaluru in February, guests found robot Nao, powered by Watson, chit chatting with them; even dancing, Gangnam style.