Artificial Intelligence
Made Real:

Worldwide Launch of IBM World of Watson

The Ask

The scope of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is and does boggles the mind. Computer scientists have watched AI’s coming of age for a long time. But for non-IT professionals across a range of sectors, what AI means and how AI may be applied in the real world has been a giant black box.

Then, IBM emerged with Watson. The gravitas of the IBM brand would supply momentum for Watson’s launch. Fueled by a “Big Blue” budget for advertisements, the touchdown of Watson would be broadcast in living rooms worldwide.

Big bangs in marketing, however, create a vacuum as people wait and see what to make of something as sweeping and enigmatic as AI.

What does this mean to me,” people asked, “and how has IBM harnessed Artificial Intelligence in some practical way?

As innovator accustomed to filling a void, IBM had prepared invitations addressed to tens of thousands of global leaders in business, medicine, technology, and government. They would be beckoned to Las Vegas for IBM’s premier event: World of Watson.

Mayven received an invitation of its own. In short, IBM presented Mayven with an incredibly exciting—albeit intimidating—opportunity: Breathe life into IBM Watson. Show those coming to World of Watson what this means when it comes to the staples of commerce, research, and public service.

Bring Watson to life with real-world examples using the Natural Language Processing API, Text-to-Speech API, Personality Insights, Machine Learning and more for IBM's premier event in Las Vegas — World of Watson.

The Build

Such an endeavor had never been done before. Neither an overstatement nor bragging rights, the Watson project could demonstrate most anything imaginable. So, one central question for Mayven and IBM came down to the classic triangle of time, cost, and quality. With countless “through the looking glass” ideas to choose from, the team had to size and scope the short list and determine what was realistic.

Someone joked that sticky notes tossed in the waste basket during brainstorming sessions could have been the birth certificates for a dozen multi-billion-dollar ventures.

The goal was to show how to utilize Watson in practical ways across several industries. At the event, these would be presented using giant interactive kiosks, set up to form a kind of Stonehenge-like circle.

For each kiosk, the team landed on several must-have demonstrations. Each idea was fleshed out in brief white papers to scope the projects.

  • Cognitive Business Like a versatile consultant, see how Watson instantly processes, simplifies, and can even advise on complex decisions.
  • Re-define Development Watch Watson generate software code—that would require weeks of programming—in minutes using minimal instruction.
  • Conversational Speech With uncanny, human-like qualities, interact with Watson, as it listens and responds in real time, in different languages.
  • Monetize Data With speed and accuracy that’s unmatched, Watson studies data, compares it to market information.
  • Re-imagine Professions By studying a person’s resume, personality characteristics, market data, and other variables, hear what Watson discovers that could change your life.

With these and other projects defined and scoped, Mayven advanced into development. The project was a full-stack build using D3.js with a Laravel PHP backend. Onsite in Las Vegas, Mayven would be on-hand for technical support—just in case.

The cornerstones were Watson’s APIs. Leveraging one of the most powerful JavaScript engines for data visualization, Mayven wired Watson’s APIs, bringing the machine to life on screen.

From there, the teams collaborated to bring together breathtakingly rich interfaces, color, sound, and data. Coding and a battery of testing under their belts, the kiosks were off to Vegas, where Mayven tech support would assist in the set-up and go-live for IBM World of Watson.

The Win

Media covering the event described Las Vegas as Watson’s “coming out party.” Watson had made other big splashes, appearing on Jeopardy in 2011 and winning $1,000,000 (which IBM gave to charity).

But Las Vegas was pivotal for IBM, because Watson was ready to go beyond fun and games, like beating a chess master or teaching itself Korean. Each of these incredible moments in AI’s evolution also generated their fair share of future shock for the man on the street.

That first Las Vegas event, however, was the time and place to unveil Watson’s genesis and for IBM to re-define what AI means—right here, right now.

The kiosks brought Watson to life, showing its power at work in real world scenarios: Look, Watson helps me think differently about my career. Watch this, Watson can build software for us, and we can go to market faster. Wow, Watson not only communicates, but holds a conversation, whatever my language. I am not alone.

As one journalist touring the event later reported, “World of Watson left me breathless.”

Next year’s mission? Mayven must one-up itself from previous years.

Maybe Watson can generate some new ideas. And build them.