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IBM's Watson settles down in New York and learns Spanish

Watson, the super computer famous for being human contestants on 'Jeopardy!,' is settling down in New York. IBM announced a new Watson global headquarters in Silicon Alley, a place they hope can be the hub of innovation for Watson.  

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"Jeopardy!" contestant Ken Jennings, who won a record 74 consecutive games, in a practice match against IBM computer called "Watson" in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., on Jan. 13, 2011. IBM is opening its Watson global headquarters in New York where it hopes to transform the computer from game show contestant to personal assistant.

Seth Wenig/AP/File

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News of Watson has been quiet since it beat its human competitors on "Jeopardy!," but behind the scenes, developers have been working to take the computer from game show contestant to a commercial product. 

On Tuesday, IBM unveiled its latest developments. IBM is opening a Watson world headquarters in New York City. Watson's new digs take up an entire Manhattan block, and with 600 employees and $1 billion in funding from IBM, the New York headquarters will become the center of Watson's development.  

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"IBM is opening its doors to area developers and entrepreneurs, hosting industry workshops, seminars and networking opportunities to build enthusiasm and awareness among the New York City start up community," IBM said in a statement. "For entrepreneurs and start ups, the Watson Group's Silicon Alley headquarters will provide technology, tools and talent to create and launch new products and businesses based on Watson's cloud-delivered cognitive intelligence."

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Named after IBM's founder Thomas Watson, Watson is IBM's latest big supercomputer project, which processes information through natural-language processing to analyze big data. 

"Watson 'gets smarter' in three ways: by being taught by its users, by learning from prior interactions, and by being presented with new information," IBM said in a statement

IBM is hoping to make the Watson system the equivalent of an operating system, but for that to happen, the software needs a platform that provides apps customers can use. IBM opened up a "cloud" to developers on November 2013 so they could develop apps that were integrated in the technology. IBM announced Tuesday that 100 businesses and nonprofits would begin offering apps for the Watson engine. The new apps include healthcare apps, that can help doctors diagnose patients, and shopping apps that help businesses offer products to customers. 

"This marks an important milestone for the Watson Ecosystem as we empower organizations to use next generation technology, using information as the cognitive fuel, to help solve formidable challenges across industries,” Stephen Gold, vice president of the Watson Group, said in a statement

Until now, Watson's natural-language processing has been restricted to English, but in new developments, Watson is learning Spanish with the help of the Spain-based CaixaBank. 

Watson's intelligence is already being implemented by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to help tackle real world healthcare problems. The hospital is planning to bring a long-term deployment of the technology soon, according to The New York Times

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In March, Watson began using its knowledge to create crazy food combinations. Chefs decide what ingredients they would like to use, and Watson comes up with different recipes. 

“The system analyzed about 35,000 existing recipes and about 1,000 chemical flavor compounds, which allows it to make educated guesses about which ingredient combinations will delight and, just as importantly, surprise,” writes Adrianne Jeffries for The Verge. “From there, it tries to encourage unconventional combinations – like chocolate, coffee, and garlic – in order to produce dishes that have never been made before.”

With its new digs and funding, IBM is hoping Watson's New York education will make it the world's smartest personal assistant and sous chef. 


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