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WVU students, faculty get access to IBM Watson cognitive computing platform

West Virginia University faculty, staff and students now have access to the powerful IBM Watson cognitive computing platform, thanks to an Academic Initiative partnership with IBM. Faculty and researchers initially have 12 months of free access, while students can access the services free for six months.

Before requesting access, IBM recommends that faculty and teaching assistants begin their experience with Watson by reviewing the presentations and lab student guides on the IBM Watson Academic Engagements webpage.

Watson is a cognitive computing system that understands the world in the way that humans do – through senses, learning and experience. It learns at scale, reasons with purpose and interacts naturally with humans. It can ingest enormous amounts of data, learn from it, and then develop recommendations to enhance human decision-making, productivity and creativity.

A portfolio of Watson APIs are available on the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix, allowing developers to discover, explore and create new applications and businesses that tap into Watson technology. Users can access natural language processing, machine learning and deep learning technologies through Bluemix.

Today, Watson is affecting many industries, from a treatment tool at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (Watson Oncology) to retail, law, tax, architecture, music and even home cooking (Chef Watson). Watson is expected to touch 1 billion people this year across these industries and more. Within a few years, IBM believes that artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies will help people and businesses make every major decision.

“Cognitive systems like IBM Watson are going to play an increasingly vital role in technologies we depend on every day, both in our personal and professional lives,” said Timi Hadra, site leader for IBM’s client innovation center in Rocket Center, West Virginia. “We’re truly excited that through this access to Watson’s industry-leading capabilities, WVU students can help shape a new generation of cognitive-powered breakthroughs that could revolutionize entire industries, from government to health care to retail and finance.” 

Through this open platform and this Academic Initiative partnership, IBM is putting this technology in the hands of WVU researchers and students so they can create their own cognitive applications. It also helps prepare WVU students to enter the workforce with cognitive computing skills that will be useful for future careers in artificial intelligence.

WVU Corporate Relations negotiated the new partnership with IBM, with support from the WVU Foundation, the WVU Research Office, Information Technology Services and the Office of the Provost.

While New York-based IBM has been an in-kind donor and supporter of WVU since 1976, WVU’s relationship with IBM dates back to 1959, when the company installed the first computer in Stewart Hall. The first machine relied on paper tape and was replaced in December 1960 with an IBM 650 data processing system, using a $30,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Internal records show that as the University grew, so did its computing needs. In 1962, the comptroller ordered an IBM1401 system to handle financial records, and by 1963, WVU had a computer center under the Office of the Provost.

Faculty interested in joining an IBM Watson user group, and exploring its potential for teaching and research may contact either Professor Don Adjeroh or Professor Saiph Savage in the Lane Department of Computer Science & Electrical Engineering.