IBM Watson Group Acquires Cognea To Help Build Conversational Computers

We often joke about the machines that humans build coming back to rule the planet, but you have to wonder if IBM's Watson isn't scheming in a way that mere mortals can only hope to comprehend. IBM's Watson group has acquired a new company this week, which will enable Watson to become even smarter than it already is. The new acquisition is Cognea, which is said to be an artificial intelligence outfit focusing on "cognitive computing and conversational AI."

To date, Cognea has partnered with HP, NASA, and others for virtual assistant program. Specifically, Cognea offers "virtual assistants that relate to people using a wide variety of personalities—from suit-and-tie formal to kid-next-door friendly." IBM hopes that the new addition to the team will help to create "depth of personality," which may or may not be alluding to the ability to craft impressively strong robotic creatures with human-like emotive skills.

In all seriousness, IBM is hoping to offer technologies that make it possible for humans to carry on a debate with a computer. And not just a basic one, but a "highly intellectual" one. The Watson Platform as a whole is surging, and the potential for life-changing applications is significant. IBM is envisioning a world where smart machines can be personal helpers, health coaches, life companions for the elderly, tutors, travel agents, and even customer service agents. It's hoping to add a conversational element to software -- imagine if you could converse with your Excel spreadsheet formula in order to work out an issue, or ask questions to your tax software in order to learn about new rules and regulations.

It's oftentimes tough to believe that there's a future where all of that is possible, but it's deals like these that get us one step closer to that reality.