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IBM’s Watson Helps Veterans Transition to Civilian Life

Two active U.S.  military members "Ask Watson" separation related questions as they prepare to transition to civilian life.

Two active U.S. military members "Ask Watson" separation related questions as they prepare to transition to civilian life. // USAA

IBM’s Watson supercomputer used its revolutionary natural-language processing technology to best the top human challengers on the game show Jeopardy in 2011, and ever since Watson and its team have taken on increasingly tougher tasks.

In Big Blue’s latest effort, the company partnered with USAA, a financial services provider for military members and their families, to pilot a new Watson project aimed at improving the transition process for the more than 150,000 active service members who separate from the military each year.  

During the pilot’s initial phase, transitioning military members can visit USAA’s website or use a mobile browser to “Ask Watson” questions about leaving the military. For example, Watson can respond to queries, such as, “How do I write a resume?” and “How do I maximize the Post-9/11 GI Bill?”

Watson answers questions based on more than 3,000 documents IBM analyzed related to military transitions, and search queries will be answered through a growing volume of business data USAA collects.

“Putting Watson into the hands of consumers is a critical milestone toward improving how we work and live," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Watson Group. “USAA’s innovative application is a prime example of how Watson's cognitive intellect has the potential to empower individuals and organizations."

Watson announced itself as a tech player by answering trivia questions, but now IBM’s creation is responding to far more important questions. With declining hardware sales the new reality, Watson’s success in answering these questions could have major ramifications for IBM’s future. IBM recently bumped up sales estimates for its data analytics products and, not coincidentally, the company announced it would invest $1 billion around Watson. 

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