IBM has acquired artificial intelligence specialist Cognea in a move designed to enhance its Watson cognitive computing technology by bringing more natural interaction to the tool.
In a blog post, Watson group senior vice-president Michael Rhodin said the deal will help to change the ay people interact with computers: "For decades, moviemakers and TV producers have featured talking computers as futuristic props," he said.
"Yet, even though the way we interact with computers has come a long way since the days of punch cards, in large part we are still forced to deal with them mainly on their terms – and hampered by their limitations. Not much longer."
Rhodin said Cognea's "virtual assistants" would help to make using computers a more individualistic, conversational and communicative experience.
"We're working on a host of technologies - a set of conversational services - aimed at enriching the relationship between you and the system," he said. "These conversational services range from helping systems understand us as individuals to selecting the appropriate words and responses that are most meaningful to each of us."
He touted the ability Cognea offers to create a raft of virtual assistants - "from suit-and-tie formal to kid-next-door friendly" - as ideal for meeting the needs of businesses in numerous sectors.
"We believe this focus on creating depth of personality, when combined with an understanding of the users' personalities, will create a new level of interaction that is far beyond today's 'talking' smartphones."
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. IBM said that it would continue to invest in companies and has a $100m fund at its disposal.
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