"How can I USE IBM Watson?"

POSTED IN: Building Bridges from R to IBM Watson

How Can I Use IBM Watson?



A developer posted this question to our DEVELOPER WORKS - which, by the way, is a great place to ask questions about Watson Developer Cloud Services.

It was a bit of a tricky question - given limited knowledge of, and background on, the developer / use case - but I took a crack here.   Perhaps useful for others, so I reposted below.


Greetings Bob! Well – that’s a hefty question – but I’ll take a crack at it from one perspective

I work for IBM Watson – and my focus is on building with our Watson Developer Cloud (WDC) services – which is just one piece of IBM Watson overall – but probably not a bad place to start.

IBM provides both complete products and also components to build solutions. For a tasty metaphor we can consider a IBM-baked cakes as each full product or service, compared to the ingredients (WDC APIs) helpful to bake your own cakes.


Moving along – and to best answer your question, it would be helpful to know a bit more about you!

Who are you and what do you find the most “useful”?

Are you a CTO sitting atop a mountain of unstructured data or organizational knowledge - with a gut feeling you should be doing far more with it? (curation, retrieval, signal extraction)

Are you a Unified Communications CIO who is trying to automate to improve profit margins in an increasingly competitive space?

Are you a Comp-Sci student who wants to experiment with Embodied Cognition or Robotics? Perhaps to build a voice-controlled cognitive bartender?

Are you a Psychology student looking at behavioral dynamics at scale, in social media?

Are you working in the Augmented Reality and Wearables space – and looking to develop a cheeky “Cognitive Wingman” like Jarvis from Iron Man?

Are you working in Healthcare, and trying to find ways to do more with less resources?

Etc.. You get the idea

The problem you trying to solve, and the value you are trying to create is the primary determinant of how you can best “use” IBM Watson.

One Mental Model - Five Value Clusters

Possibly of interest for “usefulness” is a summary of some categories that I often fit WDC services into when I’m doing workshops. Some services fit into several – but the mental model is sometimes informative:

1) Data Enrichment, Augmentation & Tagging (enriching & organizing unstructured data)

2) Sensemaking, Interpretation & Understanding (understand unstructured data at scale)

3) Interaction, Responses & Conversations (engaging & interacting with humans; AI/bots)

4) Translation (translating languages, intents, formats, ideas – beyond human languages)

5) Visual Recognition and Image Analysis (seeing & interpreting visual data)


These application starter kits are a good place to explore:



Let Us Eat Cake!

Switching cakes for carbon – another metaphor is from the Energy sector.

As many have said “data is the new oil” - so if raw and unstructured data is our Crude Oil – IBM Watson and WDC services are the tiny little refineries that are ‘cracking the carbon’ to release the energy (insights) – and resulting in structured data (gasoline, kerosene, diesel) and signal / insights (useful energy) on the other side. Our outputs are useful.

IBM Watson also includes a whole bunch of other solutions and technologies (many cakes) which I’ve not touched on here – Analytics, Health, Security, IOT, Infrastructure, Finance – as well as bakers (consulting services); bakeries etc..

Other Tools:

Watson also includes some tools more geared towards the structured, analytics, predictive and visualization end of tools – including:

http://datascience.ibm.com/ (Jupyter Notebooks, Python, R, Scala, ML and DL goodies) and

https://watson.analytics.ibmcloud.com/product (some data visualization and predictive) and

https://dreamtolearn.com/ryan/r_journey_to_watson/ (my blog with some goofy labs)

Anyway – I hope this helps answer your question!

Happy Coding!




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About the Author

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Hi! I like to play with data, analytics and hack around with robots and gadgets in my garage. Lately I've been learning about machine learning.

About this blog

This is an informal blog that explores tools, code and tricks that group members have developed to engage IBM Watson cognitive computing services - from the R Programming Language. Packages include RCURL to access Watson APIs - for services that include Natural Language Classifier and Speech to Text. THIS IS MY PERSONAL BLOG - it does not represent the views of my employer. Code is presented as 'use at your own risk' (it has lots of bugs)

Created: September 13, 2015


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