IBM's big gamble on artificial intelligence faces one major hurdle

Ginni rometty ibm watsonBrendan McDermid / ReutersIBM Chairwoman and CEO Virginia Rometty

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, is betting big on Watson, the company’s flagship artificial intelligence system.

Last month, she predicted a future in which “every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson.”

But to make that future a reality, IBM has a huge task in front of it — beyond just refining and advancing the Watson system. It must convince companies, who are hardly clamoring for a technology most people can hardly understand, that “cognitive computing” — where computers are involved in decision-making, not just data-crunching — is something they actually need.

That’s a core point in a recent report from Outsell, Inc., a research and advisory firm.

“For all of the indisputable progress and achievements the Watson program has made so far, IBM still faces one overriding challenge: to demonstrate that it is not just a technology in search of a problem,” writes Simon Alterman, a VP and lead analyst with Outsell. “Watson is no doubt a formidable hammer, but it needs to find enough nails to prove its worth. The market is new, and its potential customers don’t yet know what a nail-shaped problem looks like.”

IBM seems to recognise this challenge. That’s why members of its Watson group spend up to six weeks with potential clients, according to the Outsell report, understanding their problems and then explaining how Watson could solve them (of course).

The artificial intelligence system, still best-known to the general public for its much-publicized Jeopardy! win, is already hard at work in finance, oncology, healthcare, and other fields. If Rometty’s prediction about the future is true, that list will rapidly grow.

But first IBM has some convincing to do.

NOW WATCH: Watch Microsoft’s Insane Holographic Computer In Action

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.