Supercomputer aiding in transition from military to civilian life


By Brett Gillin

If it’s good enough to win at Jeopardy, perhaps it’s good enough to help military veterans transition to civilian life more easily. Watson, an IBM owned supercomputer, which is perhaps most well known in popular culture for making an appearance on Jeopardy, is being tasked with easing the transition of veterans after their duty ends.

IBM and the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) have teamed up, according to this story on Fox News, to create an application to aid in this task. An application is being for Watson which is designed to help give advice to soldiers as they are getting ready to leave service and go back to “normal life.”

IBM says that in preparation of development for this application, more than 3,000 documents on “military transitions” have been loaded into Watson, then summarily analyzed and “understood.” Now, users can ask questions on a wide number of topics and get replies from the powerful supercomputer.

Some of the questions that IBM points out Watson can answer range from how to find and apply for jobs to how to purchase a home, or even finding out detailed information on the benefits available to the veterans after they leave the service.

Each year, according to recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 155,000 active military members make the transition to civilian life. Many, if not most of these veterans, are in need of some sort of additional information, which IBM and USAA are hoping can be answered by Watson.

“Putting Watson into the hands of consumers is a critical milestone toward improving how we work and live,” Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM’s Watson Group, said in a statement obtained by Mashable. “USAA’s innovative application is a prime example of how Watson’s cognitive intellect has the potential to empower individuals and organizations. We believe this new service can help men and women who served their country gain timely and relevant insights into the steps they need to successfully move to civilian life.”

According to the article on Mashable, this marks the first time that Watson has been made available directly to consumers, aside from being used by IBM’s “enterprise customers” in the last year or so. Veteran USAA customers will be able to use Watson by simply logging into a website and asking their questions.

It’s heartening to hear that our veterans will soon have access to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world to help them in this difficult transition to civilian life.

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