IBM's Watson Now Helps People Who Need a Supercomputer to Understand Memes

You know who these people are.

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Sep 24 2015, 4:29pm

Image: Mr Seb/Flickr

Machines aren't far away from truly understanding how we communicate, and Watson, the supercomputer that IBM keeps throwing its money and wild ideas at, is always inching closer and closer to that end.

The company is opening up a suite of APIs running on Watson so that developers can add language- and visual-scanning functionality to their apps—features which include Siri-like natural language processing ("Is it sunny in Philadelphia today?"), scanning for visual insights on social media ("What are people saying about this photo or video so I can be #brand forward?"), and tools that help quickly retrieve more relevant information, much like a smarter searchable handbook.

So in a practical sense, this opens up licensing toward a lot of natural language processing and data-crunching tools that otherwise would have been closed off to casual programmers or startups don't have the time or resources to invest in scanning through reams of data. This sort of licensing isn't unprecedented either: Siri and many other voice assistants run calculation queries through Wolfram Alpha, and Edge Up is an app running off Watson that scans what people are saying about fantasy sports through social media to tailor recommendations.

The language used to explain Watson's functions suggest many of these could be used commercially, as market analysis tools. But who's to stop a rando from feeding a couple memes for free to see what the teens are into?