IBM Watson breaks the ice with Cognea acquisition

small__6979312903While all eyes are on IBM’s software-defined storage push at IBM Edge this week, the company has made an interesting move into artificial intelligence, acquiring a little-known startup called Cognea.

The acquisition was made by IBM’s Watson group and announced in a blog post this morning. Cognea describes itself as a “cognitive computing and conversational artificial intelligence platform”, and builds ‘virtual assistants’ somewhat akin to Siri. However, it’s products claim to be somewhat smarter and can “relate to people through personalities”.

IBM explained its rationale for the acquisition, saying:

“We believe this focus on creating depth of personality, when combined with an understanding of the users’ personalities will create a new level of interaction that is far beyond today’s “talking” smartphones. We welcome to IBM, [Cognea’s] co-founders Liesl Capper and John Zakos, and the rest of the Cognea team.”

This acquisition comes after IBM unveiled the Watson Group in January, aimed at furthering the development of Watson and other cognitive technologies. At the same time, IBM injected $1 billion into the Watson Group – cash which would be used to fund research & development, and new investments. It’s been extremely busy since then too – investing in Fluid, which is creating a ‘cognitive shopping assistant’, and Welltok, which builds online healthcare management communities.

IBM says that it plans to integrate Cognea’s technology with Watson, giving its artificially intelligent supercomputer the ability to have more realistic conversations with people. That doesn’t mean we can expect to download a super-smart, walking, talking Watson app anytime soon however – Watson’s conversational services will only be available to select customers, businesses partners, entrepreneurs and academic institutions.

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