After showing off a robot named Pepper that it wants to watch your children last year, SoftBank is bringing IBM's supercomputer Watson to Japan, and it won't need a translator to get around. According to The New York Times, IBM has partnered with Japan's SoftBank to teach Watson Japanese, and to help develop technologies for the next generation of intelligent robotics. (It isn't as easy as hopping into the settings and changing the language to teach a robot that won Jeopardy! Japanese.)
IBM and SoftBank will work together in a number of areas
The deal looks to be a win-win for both companies, as SoftBank will help IBM create cognitive capabilities, such as expressing sympathy and determining the important information within a larger data set. IBM sees the deal as a gateway into a new market. "This will help us accelerate and advance the use of cognitive technologies in new parts of the world," Stephen Gold, vice president of IBM’s Watson Group told The New York Times. "It’s bigger and broader than a single thing."
SoftBank Telecom, a subsidiary of SoftBank will distribute IBM's technology in Japan, and will recruit developers to build new features and products with the technology. The company believes Watson speaking Japanese can help "create new value in the Japanese market" and will "differentiate SoftBank Telecom’s product offerings among telecommunications and other commoditized services," a spokesman for SoftBank Telecom told The New York Times. SoftBank has not said exactly how it plans to use use Watson.
The next generation of robots could work in more consumer-friendly industries
If IBM and SoftBank succeed in building cognitive capabilities for the next generation of robots, it could open the door to having robots in more consumer-friendly industries, such as customer service, or the health care industry. SoftBank has been working hard on robots that can work with people, and partnering with IBM will only bring that dream closer to fruition.