IBM Commercializes a New Technology For Easy Communication Between Humans and Computers

  • IBM’s Project Debater is the first AI system that can debate humans on complex topics
  • This new technology is an add-on to IBM’s already existing tool called Watson

AI systems have taken on an emerging role in business. There has been an improvement in their abilities to process and learn from large quantities of data. At the same time, there has also been struggle to understand the kinds of nuances that appear in everyday communication among people.

Computers like Watson can understand human language and better understand problem. The “natural language processing” technology was developed for IBM Research’s Project Debater. The AI machine became the first to compete against a world class human debater last year.

Project Debater was required to have the ability to listen to its opponent, understand his or her argument and formulate a response rapidly, all without internet access. Hence, companies can now use IBM’s natural language processing tools to more efficiently and comb through documents and conduct research, field incoming communications and improve customer service.

The benefit

According to a report Rob Thomas, general manager of IBM Data and AI, said “Everything that happens in a business is based on communication between employees, business partners, customers, and communication takes the form of emails, chats, text, documents ; Some of the best data a company has is codified in all that language, all those communications.”

It has also been revealed that, 48% of global chief investment officers will be looking to deploy AI systems in their companies this year, according to a 2019 survey. A January IBM survey of 4,500 “technology decision makers” within companies around the world stated that 45% of companies with more than 1,000 employees have adopted AI.

One major improvement over existing AI systems is the system’s ability to do “sentiment analysis” — to look at what someone is saying or has written and understand what they are really trying to communicate and what the context is. Thomas also shared there’s an extensive usage of idioms for customer support that are specific to an industry.

When that capability is plugged into an existing IBM AI tool called Watson Discovery, it also makes it easier for companies to dig through and glean insights from troves of documents and other written communications. The system is better able to understand the central themes or important points in documents and classify them into more specific categories, so they’re more useful. It can also generate summaries from mass amounts of data. The tool can also tell when two documents are making essentially the same point with different words.


Thomas also shared that Watson can also identify the most relevant information while going through a million documents.
It could also be used by a law firm to sort through documents and come to conclusions about them for discovery in a legal case — what would normally take a lawyer days or weeks, would take the machine a matter of minutes.

One of the major concerns about the field of artificial intelligence is that in some cases, such systems have been found to exhibit bias against certain groups of people, including people of color.
Trust is essential for businesses that use AI, as well as their customers as shared by Thomas. He also revealed that IBM has a tool called Watson OpenScale that, among other capabilities, can do bias detection and mitigation of companies’ AI tools.

And while artificial intelligence systems may change the way people work, they’re unlikely to negate the need for human workers. Instead, Thomas said, the tools could make people more effective at their jobs.
“Maybe the problem is too hard for the AI to solve, but if you pair this tech with (a human worker), their ability and speed to find the solution goes up rapidly,” he said.