"The health plans we already work with are excited to add on the capability to what they are already doing," Cohen said, noting that any feature that encourages healthier lifestyle choices, which could cut medical bills, would be seen as a financial benefit for these health plans.
While the Watson Group works to fit Watson-based cognitive computing into commercial settings, IBM Research will continue to further develop the technology itself, Banavar said.
Some of the work that IBM Research plans to do will be around developing new ways to get computers to understand and interpret non-written information, such as images, animations, audio and video.
"We're not just talking about understanding the metadata, but understanding and learning from the content over time," Banavar said. For instance, a cognitive computing function could look for anomalies in MRI images. "Accuracy can be greatly improved when you adopt a tool that learns anomalies over time, through large data sets and through training of human experts."
It will also investigate new ways for computers to recognize patterns and reason about the data on hand. Today's computer architecture isn't well-suited to recognizing sometimes subtle patterns in very large data sets, Banavar explained. And while Watson is good at assembling answers from large data sets, it could be improved by better understanding the logic needed to derive a correct answer, and whether that logic can be applied for other queries.
"It needs to make a judgment about whether that sequence of logical steps, and the evidence underlying that sequence, are appropriate for the particular situation," Banavar said.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.