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Supercomputer That Won 'Jeopardy!' Moves to New IBM Offices in Astor Place

By Lisha Arino | October 8, 2014 7:14am
 The supercomputer Watson, and a new IBM division are moving to 51 Astor Place, officials said.
IBM Watson Group Moves Into 51 Astor Place
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EAST VILLAGE — Watson, the supercomputer best known for beating two of Jeopardy’s most successful contestants, is moving to the East Village.

Its new home is the dark glass tower at 51 Astor Place, which will house servers that run the computing system and provide a home for the Watson Group, a new division at IBM, the company announced.

“It’s just an incredible location in the middle of Silicon Alley,” said Mike Rhodin, head of the Watson Group, which will oversee and develop the supercomputer.

More than 600 employees will work in the company’s new offices, which will span four floors in the 12-story LEED Gold Certified building, starting on Wednesday, he said.

Watson itself has shrunk significantly since winning the game show in 2011 — it went from filling up the space of a master bedroom to about the same size as three stacked pizza boxes, IBM said. 


Got a look inside #IBMWatson's new headquarters today. Above, Fredrik Tunvall,a tech evangelist at IBM, shows me how some of the displays work inside their interactive conference room. #dnainfonyc

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This time however, Watson won’t be playing games, IBM officials said. Instead, clients will tap into its ability to understand natural language, process large amounts of data and learn from each interaction to build products that will be useful in several industries.

Individuals and companies in various industries could use Watson, officials said during a press preview of the space. For example, the technology could help doctors diagnose patients or call centers looking to improve customers’ experiences, they said.

The company’s new division will focus on putting Watson’s “cognitive computing” technologies to work, officials said.

“Cognitive computing is about using the information in our world to make informed, better decisions. It’s that simple,” said Stephen Gold, vice-president of the Watson Group.

Apps for computers and mobile devices are in development that will use Watson's technology to answer questions and find information, Gold said.

“It says, ‘Here’s a set of possible answers and here’s all the supporting evidence.  So if I just want to get to the answer, great, but if I actually want to learn, I can actually explore why Watson believes with highest confidence that answer ‘a’ is better than answer ‘b,’” Gold said.

The system “learns” as more information becomes available and users interact with it, he said.

The new space puts IBM in the middle of the city’s tech boom, officials said, and allows interested clients to learn more about the company’s cognitive computing technology. IBM also plans to host workshops and seminars, it said in a press release.

The company also hopes to attract young workers with its move, Rhodin said.

“What we’re starting to see with the millennial workforce as they come in, is they want to be in cities, they want to be in exciting, vibrant parts of town. They don’t want to be in laboratories out in the country,” he said. “This represents an example of how we’re going to meet that need.”