IBM’s Watson Could Be Used For Sentiment Analysis In Social Media

Filed as Editorial, News on February 21, 2011 2:15 pm

IBM execs are raving about Watson’s David VS. Goliath battle with Ken Jennings. While machine triumphed over man, we’re still far away from a HAL-9000 scenario or a terminator dominated world. Watson’s victory in Jeopardy gives the machine access to assisting us in many different fields but what if Watson were used with Social Media?

Sentiment Analysis

The Social Sphere is huge and gauging its impact has created companies such as Radian6 and Infinigraph to provide sentiment analysis but no machine is perfect. Instead, humans have been tasked with sifting through data sets to guess what the Social Sphere is thinking. Watson could radically change the sentiment analysis landscape.

The biggest problem with current sentiment analysis tools is the difficulty in differentiating a negative, positive or neutral statement. Watson excels at not only recognizing conversations and texts, but at understanding the meaning of words.

I expected Watson’s bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer’s techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson’s case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels “sure” enough, it decides to buzz. This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.

Being able to put a Tweet in to context can give us a better understanding of how a brand is being perceived through the social sphere.

What Is Watson?

The specs on Watson are nothing to scoff at either. Watson is made up of a cluster of ninety IBM Power 750 servers (plus additional I/O, network and cluster controller nodes in 10 racks) with a total of 2,880 3.5 GHz POWER7 processor cores (or eight cores per processor). IBM didn’t skimp out on RAM either; 16 Terabytes or 4,096 times the average amount of RAM in an average consumer laptop.

In its most basic form Watson is the culmination of powerful custom IBM Hardware and Software.

Watson might be the precursor of our modern day SkyNet but I, for one am not welcoming our robot overlords just yet. I’m taking comfort in the fact that despite IBM’s massive leaps in supercomputing, Watson can’t be crammed so easily in to the Human form factor just yet.

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