IBM's Watson Could Be Your Next Shopping Partner
Imagine having IBM’s artificially intelligent robot, Watson -- the same robot that made even the smartest of us feel like bumbling fools on Jeopardy -- help you decide on just what pair of heels to buy.
It’s not really such a crazy thought.
IBM’s newly-developed Watson Group has just invested in digital commerce company Fluid to speed up the development of a mobile application that will apply the cognitive power of artificial intelligence to e-commerce. In addition to the cash infusion, the Fluid team will gain access to the IBM Watson development platform in the cloud. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“By tapping into IBM Watson’s cognitive intelligence, Fluid is infusing the personalized, interactive feel of an in-store conversation into every digital shopping interaction,” said Mike Rhodin, a senior vice president at IBM’s Watson Group, in a statement. "It’s a key example of how a new era of cognitive applications will revolutionize how decisions are made by consumers and businesses alike.”
With the Fluid e-commerce app, shoppers will have access to the expertise and personalized advice of an in-store assistant. It all sounds a bit far out. Here’s an example, provided by the IBM Watson team: You are headed on a five-day hiking trek in Phoenix in the summer and are not sure what gear to bring. The application would access all of its data to analyze the weather conditions and trail conditions at that time of year to make informed shopping recommendations.
“Fluid and IBM are purposely involving consumers in this new era of computing. An era in which people no longer type best-guess keywords into a retail website’s search box and hope for meaningful results; instead people ask specific questions based on explicit needs and get expert, personalized, information-driven responses to guide buying decisions,” said Kent Deverell, CEO, Fluid, in a statement. “This is the same experience we have in real-world stores with great sales reps every day and is what’s missing from digital retail.”
IBM’s Watson Group was launched in January and the New York City-based branch of the Big Blue tech giant plans to invest more than $1 billion in cognitive computing applications, like Fluid.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.