Watson, the cognitve system created by IBM which in 2011 was able to beat the best players in the game’s history, is a demonstration of what the near technological future will soon look like, with computers able to understand natural language and provide us with answers to complex questions. However, Watson cannot be confused with a simple text search engine, as the technology that powers this computer is much more ambitious. Watson is able to learn and give answers to problems for which a solution has not been previously provided. Watson analyzes the large amounts of data it is fed with which allow it to discover non-obvious relationships which it can use to increase its knowledge. Therefore, we can say, that it is a computer that, within reasonable limits, can actually think.
The only problem with the Watson system that was able to win at Jeopardy, is that it required a lot of space (about a master bedroom) and cost a fortune, which put it out of the reach of mere mortals. The situation has now changed, as Watson can be used through REST services that can be invoked from any application built on BlueMix, IBM’s Plataform as a Service (PaaS) offering. That means that you no longer need a large initial investment to start building smarter applications.