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YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NEW YORK––IBM has created a computer, called Watson, that will play against the b
IBM's Watson supercomputer Photograph by Carolyn Cole, LA Times via Getty Images

IBM To Hold $5 Million Watson Artificial Intelligence Contest

Feb 17, 2016

IBM has a new plan to popularize its Watson cognitive computing technology.

The business technology giant said on Tuesday at the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia that it will hold a $5 million competition for developers and researchers who can come up with something revolutionary while using Watson as the underlying technology. Detailed guidelines of what IBM is looking for will come out in mid-May.

IBM (ibm) is putting on the competition in conjunction with the non-profit X Prize Foundation, which holds popular competitions that its management hopes will spur technological innovations. Its board of trustees includes Tesla (tsla) and SpaceX (spacex) CEO Elon Musk, media mogul Arianna Huffington, and filmmaker James Cameron, among others.

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Over the next three years, contest participants will face off against each other at IBM’s annual Watson conference for prizes that will aggregate a total of $500,000.

There aren’t any concrete challenges that the participants will be required to solve through their Watson inventions, at least at this time. X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis said in a statement that the participants will “effectively call their own shots, and then come up and demonstrate what they’ve done.”

The top three teams will eventually have to show off their artificial intelligence technology and perform a TED talk during a TED conference in 2020. The winner will take home $4.5 million.

It’s interesting to note that neither IBM nor the X Prize Foundation have any guidelines as to what the contestants need to dream up using Watson. They didn’t say anything about using Watson as the basis for self-driving cars, voice recognition, or any other service that companies are currently using artificial intelligence technologies to power.

IBM has been busy over the past few years trying to convince companies that they can use its Watson data crunching service for a wide variety of services, such as processing healthcare records and syphoning enormous volumes of data from Internet-connected appliances. Watson, in theory, can absorb all that data, learn from it, and then respond to questions that people may have regarding the information.

The company has been investing billions of dollars into Watson and has been developing ways to use the service across different industries from meteorology to agriculture.

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For Diamandis, the contest seems to be a way to make artificial intelligence technologies more accessible to the mainstream.

“I’m sick and tired of the dystopian vision of artificial intelligence,” said Diamandis in a statement. “AI is one of the most important inventions we will create to solve humanity’s grand challenges, to understand the potential the future provides for us.”

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