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Supercomputer Watson too thick to use Siri

We're still smarter than computers, phew

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Looks like the human race has some breathing space in our intelligence arms race with computers. Though supercomputer Watson beats the best human brains at quiz games, it can't use the iPhone app Siri.

Take that, Watson. You'll never know where to find the best Thai restaurants in town.

The question came up last night at an outing of the IBM-created Watson supercomputer at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California, as reported on by Gigaom's Stacey Higginbotham.

Watson's daddy, David Ferrucci, explained that while each computer system is intuitive for humans to use, they can't use each other. Each system treats language in a very different way and neither has the flexibility to understand how the other works.

Watson picks up language fed through as text, breaks down the text to related concepts and then ascribes meaning to those concepts based on searches of unstructured data, after which it gives what it believes to be the most relevant information.

Siri, by contrast, recognises speech and then opens various applications – the NYT movie database, Wolfram Alpha, your contacts list – to perform a task.

It's not just the different ways they take input that makes the two incompatible. ®

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