IBM Wants to Load Doctor Watson to Your Smartphone

Invests in genetic testing startup to build mobile app that will use big data and cognitive computing to give users personalized health advice

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

November 12, 2014

2 Min Read
IBM's Ginni Rometty
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin (Photo: Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM has invested into a genetic testing services laboratory in a bid to give Watson, its self-learning computing system that can be controlled by human voice, the ability to answer questions a user may have about their personal health.

The investment makes Pathway Genomics Corp. one of the best capitalized healthcare startups, with $80 million raised total, according to IBM. The company did not disclose the size of its investment.

The ultimate goal is to build a mobile app that will be called Pathway Panorama and draw on millions of pages of medical journals, clinical trial data, the user’s DNA, healthcare records, and lifestyle data to answer questions posed in natural language. The user will be able to ask the app things like how much exercise they should do or how much coffee they can drink on any particular day, for example.

“The medical industry is undergoing a dramatic and systemic change, giving consumers and their physicians a powerful tool built upon cognitive learning, and Watson will make the change even more transformative,” Michael Nova, chief medical officer at Pathway Genomics and member of Watson Advisory Board, said in a statement.

For IBM Watson Healthcare Only One App

IBM first introduced Watson in 2008, when the system appeared on the game show Jeopardy, winning the game against two of its human champions. Since then, the company has been hard at work productizing the technology, which not only understands the subtleties of human speech but also learns as it goes.

IBM already has numerous cloud services that leverage Watson and provides APIs developers can use to leverage Watson capabilities in their own applications through its Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service.

Earlier this year, the company committed $1 billion to investments in the various businesses around Watson and opened a headquarters building in New York City dedicated exclusively to Watson.

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