IBM Adds Watson Assistant to AI Portfolio

The new service "is clearly IBM's move to beat its more consumer-bent competitors to a smart assistant for commercial partners."
Matthew HellerMarch 22, 2018

IBM has launched a new service based on its Watson technology that businesses can use to power voice-activated virtual assistants for their own products.

An enhancement of IBM’s “Watson Conversation” service, the Watson Assistant is not tied to any one device but can be used by partners who license the technology to create Alexa-like experiences across mobile, the Web, wearables, and even robotics.

Companies can customize the technology by, for example, adding their own “wake word” to activate a device.

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“This is clearly IBM’s move to beat its more consumer-bent competitors to a smart assistant for commercial partners,” Techradar said. “Smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant may have all but conquered the smartphone, tablet, and corners of the smart home, but not so the professional world.”

Techradar noted that smart assistants like Alexa “have only recently began branching out into other products, almost all of which are consumer-oriented devices and services. Watson Assistant, on the other hand, was built expressly to power businesses’ smart assistant efforts.”

IBM has already secured partnerships for Watson Assistant with Harman to build a voice assistant for a Maserati concept car; at Munich airport, where it is powering a Pepper robot that offers visitors directions; and a third with smart home company Chameleon Technologies, where the voice tech powers its smart home meter.

Watson Assistant is also powering a digital agent for Autodesk that is designed to quickly answer the most common customer queries, every day and at any hour.

The technology “brings together artificial intelligence, cloud and the Internet of Things to help businesses enhance brand loyalty and transform customer experiences, while keeping the business and customer data private and secure,” Kareem Yusuf, general manager of Watson Internet of Things at IBM, said in a blog post.

The Verge, however, questioned how useful an integration with Watson Assistant will be.

“Anyone who’s used Google Assistant or Alexa knows how inconsistent these products are, so why would we expect companies without their expertise to do a better job when adapting off-the-shelf services?” it asked.

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