With Wednesday night’s big game show victory under its belt, IBM has its sights set on applying the high-performance computer’s advanced analytics capabilities to the healthcare industry. IBM announced Thursday that it is teaming up with Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications to integrate that company’s speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) technology with Watson’s “Deep Question Answering” natural language processing and machine learning capabilities. The result, which could be ready in as soon as 18 months, is expected to improve patient diagnosis and treatment.
IBM paints the following scenario: A doctor considering a patient’s diagnosis could literally ask Watson—running Nuance’s software—for help. Once the question is processed, Watson would quickly tap all the related texts, reference materials and prior cases as well as the latest findings in journals and medical literature to formulate an answer. A score indicating Watson’s level of confidence in its answer could even be provided. Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are helping IBM and Nuance by providing the medical expertise necessary to adapt the technology to a healthcare setting.
Nuance is perhaps best known for its work with Ford to provide voice-recognition software for drivers using the car company’s SYNC an in-car communications and entertainment system. IBM is also in discussions with an unnamed consumer electronics retailer to develop a version of Watson that could interact with consumers on a variety of subjects such as buying decisions and technical support, The New York Times reports.