IBM’s Watson Developer Cloud

    Tanay Pant
    Tanay Pant

    IBM made its debut in the artificial intelligence field several years ago with Watson, an artificial intelligence computer system that can answer questions posed in natural language.

    Watson now includes a collection of Web APIs that enable web developers to leverage Watson’s cognitive capabilities in their web applications. These REST APIs are publicly available through IBM’s Bluemix cloud services platform, dubbed the Watson Developer Cloud.

    IBM Watson Developer Cloud

    IBM’s CTO for Watson, Rob High, has been quoted as saying that developers can utilize these APIs without needing to understand anything about machine learning.

    Demo Apps at the Developer Cloud

    Personality Insights Demonstration

    The IBM Watson Personality Insights service provides an API that enables applications to derive insights from social media, enterprise data or from digital communications.

    Watson gives the personality insights in the form of percentages of what’s known as the “Big Five”. These are the human characteristics of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Emotional Range, and Agreeableness. Other than the Big Five, it also gives some insights into the Needs and Values of a person’s personality.

    Their website suggests that –

    These insights help businesses to understand their clients’ preferences and improve customer satisfaction by anticipating customer needs and recommending future actions. This allows businesses to improve client acquisition, retention, and engagement, and to strengthen relations with their clients.

    It also provides a beautiful visualization of its results in the form of a chart, created with the help of D3.js:

    Data Visualization

    Its documentation is available here, its REST API can be accessed from here, and you can hack on the code by forking this GitHub repository.

    Question and Answer

    The Watson Question and Answer service interprets and answers questions related to the Travel and Health industries by obtaining meaningful information based on primary data sources (brochures, web pages, manuals, records, and so on).

    Each answer has an associated confidence level, and it links to supporting evidence for the answer. This application is currently in Beta, since it hasn’t been trained currently through machine learning.

    Its documentation is available here, and you can hack on the code by forking this GitHub repository.

    Visual Recognition

    The IBM Watson Visual Recognition service provides an API that enables a user to analyze images or video frames to understand their contents.

    We decided to test the application, and provided an image from Wikipedia as input in the landmarks category:

    Input Image

    And Watson gave the following output in less than 8 seconds!


    The Visual Recognition documentation is available here, its REST API can be accessed from here and you can hack on the code by forking this GitHub repository.

    13 Services Currently Offered by IBM

    1. Personality Insights
      enables deeper understanding of people’s personality characteristics, needs, and values to help engage users on their own terms.
    2. Concept Insights
      explores information based on the concepts behind your input, rather than limiting investigation to findings based on traditional text matching.
    3. Concept Expansion
      maps euphemisms or colloquial terms to more commonly understood phrases.
    4. Language Identification
      identifies the language in which text is written.
    5. Machine Translation
      converts text input in one language into a destination language for the end user.
    6. Message Resonance
      facilitates communication with people in a style and in words that suit them.
    7. Question and Answer
      interprets and answers user questions directly, based on primary data sources.
    8. Relationship Extraction
      intelligently finds relationships between sentence components (nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, etc.).
    9. Speech to Text
      transcribes English speech to text with low latency.
    10. Text to Speech
      synthesizes natural-sounding speech from English or Spanish text.
    11. Tradeoff Analytics
      helps people optimize their decisions, while striking a balance between multiple – often conflicting – objectives.
    12. Visual Recognition
      analyzes the visual content of images and video frames to understand the content directly, without the need for a textual description.
    13. Visualization Rendering
      provides graphical representations of data analysis for easier understanding.


    IBM has taken a pleasing step by making Watson’s APIs freely available to developers, enabling them to make their applications cognitive and smarter. Hopefully, over time, more machine learning and natural language processing services like this will become freely available for developers. If they could be open-source, too, that would be icing on the cake!

    Various individuals and organizations are currently developing natural language processing solutions such as Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Jasper and Sirius. The ability to integrate such services with web applications would be an extra bonus, ushering in a new era of speech interaction with web services, and freeing us a little more from the mouse and keyboard!

    So, what do you think of Watson’s new APIs? Have you tried them yet? If not, can you envisage what you might be using them for one day?