IBM is Bringing AI to the Maker Movement

With Project Intu, IBM is allowing developers at all levels to leverage the capabilities of its Watson AI, including developers using the Raspberry Pi.

Chris Wiltz

November 15, 2016

4 Min Read
IBM is Bringing AI to the Maker Movement

IBM has announced a new experimental platform, Project Intu, that aims to bring the various machine learning capabilities of its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) system to developers at all levels -- even ones that use a Raspberry Pi.

The goal of Project Intu is to make it easier for developers to implement cognitive computing functions (also called "embedded cognition) into their devices, whether it be an IoT device, robot, or other system, to create more natural user interactions via functions. In short, developers will be able to leverage Watson to more easily add functionalities like conversation, speech-to-text, and voice, language, and visual recognition to devices. “Instead of a developer needing to program each individual movement of a device or avatar, Project Intu makes it easy to combine movements that are appropriate for performing specific tasks like assisting a customer in a retail setting or greeting a visitor in a hotel in a way that is natural for the end user,” a press statement from IBM said. “.... Project Intu offers developers a ready-made environment on which to build cognitive experiences running on a wide variety of operating systems – from Raspberry PI to MacOS, Windows to Linux machines, to name a few.”

IBM's Watson, which rose to fame back in 2011 when it became a Jeopardy champion, has already been leveraged over the years for a number of more ambitious tasks, particularly in factory automation and healthcare. In October Quest Diagnostics announced a partnership with IBM to use Watson to help diagnose cancer patients using a combination of genomic sequencing and machine learning. That same month IBM announced a partnership with industrial supply company Schaeffler, wherein Schaeffler will be using Watson to help improve its business practices, from product development all the way through manufacturing and the supply chain.

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Project Intu marks the first occasion of Watson being offered in a way that smaller developers as well as homebrew and DIY enthusiasts can access its capabilities. IBM has previously allowed the Raspberry Pi to connect to to Watson's cloud-based service for purposes of data visualizations, but this latest announcement opens up a much larger sandbox for developers at all levels.

In conjunction with this, IBM has also announced a deal with Topcoder, an online software development community to host hackathons and coding competitions wherein developers will be challenged to create AI apps, APIs, and other solutions using Watson. "The potential of Watson to transform the way we work and live is unlimited. The artificial intelligence revolution presents developers, entrepreneurs, and mid-career programmers with an opportunity to create innovation at a level we've never seen before," Tejada, IBM Chief Developer Advocate, said in a press statment. "This partnership expands the Watson Developer Community and Watson's capabilities to the more than 1 million Topcoder contributors, creating a collaborative and competitive environment where individuals can learn and advance their careers while accelerating next-generation technology development for all."



IBM's new push for AI is coming at a time when analysts are predicting heavy growth opportunity in the coming years. In a recent report on IT Industry Predictions for 2017, IDC estimated by 2018 75% of developer teams will be using AI functionality in one or more of their applications and services -- a 50% increase from IDC's predictions from last year. The company also predicts that by 2019 there will be over 110 million consumer devices using embedded cognition in US households. And, because of easier adoption driven by the cloud, IDC expects to see a “battle of AI platforms” as more and more developers enter the space from 2017 to 2020, with top use cases including quality management in manufacturing, medical diagnostics and treatment, and automated service agents in retail.

Project Intu is currently available via the Watson Developer Cloud as well as on GitHub and Intu Gateway.

Chris Wiltz is the Managing Editor of Design News 

[Watson image courtesy of IBM]

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