The hive mind of servers behind Watson may have conquered Jeopardy, but now it's turning its attentions to a more altruistic challenge — choosing the best treatment for cancer sufferers. Set to be piloted by doctors at Cedars-Sinai research hospital in Los Angeles, the system will offer evidence-based suggestions to doctors on what treatments could work for each person using case studies and the records of other patients. The server will be housed at insurance company WellPoint's HQ and accessed via the internet for easy expansion for other oncology departments in the future. Language recognition technology from Nuance is integrated into the software, meaning that using alternative phrases or wording shouldn't cause the system to deliver compromised results.
Steve Gold, the Director of Worldwide Marketing for IBM Watson, told PC World that this Watson setup will be far smaller than the one used in Jeopardy. Since the game show configuration was geared for speed, needing to access terabytes of data in just a few seconds, a huge amount of processing power was required. Gold says that "Most situations won't dictate that level of response time. For a doctor, if the response is in six seconds or 10 seconds... obviously the implications for the response are more important than the turnaround time." When drug selection can currently be a trial-and-error process, the ability to choose based on thousands of case histories could make a huge difference to the wellbeing of patients.