The IBM Watson team have announced the first consumer-facing commerical use of Watson’s natural language technology. The technology will be available to users of USAA, a firm which provides financial services to US military personnel and their families. Watson is able to scan more than 3,000 USAA documents relating to finance and healthcare, and answer questions about them in conversational English.

“Traditional methods of providing advice and information aren’t scaling,” John Gordon, vice president of IBM’s Watson Group, said in an interview. “This is a fundamentally different approach.”

Gordon also highlighted that whilst Watson has been available to users in limited tests (such as its cooking app), this is the first time a Watson-based consumer service has become widely available.

IBM worked in conjunction with USAA for nine months to develop the technology. Eric Engquist, assistant vice president of military transitions at USAA stated the tool was able to answer specific queries, like whether to seek out veteran’s benefits or how to buy a home. Engquist also highlighted that 150,000 military members transfer to civilian life every year.

IBM hopes that increased interest in Watson will compensate for disappointing hardware sales figures; hardware sales have been down for the last nine quarters. However, in the data-analysis market, things are looking up IBM- expected sales in this domain for 2015 have risen to $20 billion, from an original projection of $16 billion.

Read more here.
(Image credit: IBM)

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