IBM’s IoT Experiment Hopes to Bring Watson to Any Connected Device
Michael Alba posted on November 21, 2016 |
IoT platform aims to make connecting devices elementary.
Is it just me, or does that robot look like it’s about to break Asimov’s first law? (Image courtesy of IBM.)
Is it just me, or does that robot look like it’s about to break Asimov’s first law? (Image courtesy of IBM.)

IBM recently announced an experimental new platform called Project Intu, which will allow the Internet of Things (IoT) and other developers to embed IBM Watson functionality into their devices. The experimental release hopes to see developers create new form factors for Watson's speech, language, vision and empathy capabilities.

Project Intu

Project Intu is platform-agnostic and can run on many operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi and more. It aims to provide developers with a ready-made environment to build cognitive experiences, allowing for simplified integration of Watson services such as conversation, language and visual recognition.

One of the primary goals of the platform is to enable multiple form factors for Watson's cognitive capabilities, like spaces, avatars, robots or other IoT devices, in order to extend cognitive technology into the physical world. IBM hopes to see developers integrate Watson with the capabilities of their devices to create a more natural, human-like interaction with the user.
(Image courtesy of IBM.)
(Image courtesy of IBM.)

IBM offers the following example of what a developer can do with Project Intu: “Instead of needing to program each individual movement of a device or avatar, Project Intu makes it easy to combine movements that are appropriate for performing specific tasks, like assisting a customer in a retail setting or greeting a visitor in a hotel in a way that is natural for the end user.”

The open-source Intu software development kit is available on GitHub, or through the Intu Gateway. It’s also accessible through the Watson Developer Cloud.

A New Era of Computing?

IBM believes we’re on the verge of a new era of computing. This is unquestionably true, but IBM takes a different position than many others—it believes this new era will not be an era of artificial intelligence (AI), but rather an era of cognitive computing.

In a white paper on the upcoming era, IBM defines cognitive computing as “systems that learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally.” This may sound like AI with a different name, but the whitepaper distinguishes cognitive computing from AI as follows: “None of this [cognitive computing] involves either sentience or autonomy on the part of machines. Rather, it consists of augmenting the human ability to understand—and act upon—the complex systems of our society.”

IBM’s position on the so-called Cognitive Era sums up what it wants Watson, and by extension Project Intu, to accomplish. But IBM Watson CTO Rob High offered a little more insight into the company’s hopes for the project.“Project Intu allows users to build embodied systems that reason, learn and interact with humans to create a presence with the people that use them—these cognitive-enabled avatars and devices could transform industries like retail, elder care and industrial and social robotics,” said High.

Even if you’re not developing IoT applications for these industries, keep in mind that cognitive-enabled applications are growing at an incredible rate. The International Data Corporation estimates that “by 2018, 75 percent of developer teams will include cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications/services.”

With growth like this, it may be wise to explore cognitive and/or AI options for your IoT solutions.Whether or not you make use of Watson and Project Intu, or develop custom cognitive functionality, it's a good idea to look to the future to inform your design choices. And right now, the future looks cognitive.

For more about IBM Watson, check out “IBM Watson IoT Platform to Help Engineers with Product Development.”

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