Media Releases

From Jeopardy to the classroom: IBM brings its Watson platform to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto

September 30, 2014

TORONTO, ON — A group of stu­dents in the Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to are get­ting the oppor­tu­ni­ty of a life­time. Using the vast capa­bil­i­ties of IBM’s Wat­son, the cog­ni­tive com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy wide­ly known for win­ning the 2011 Jeop­ardy chal­lenge, the stu­dents will be learn­ing to devel­op inno­v­a­tive arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI)-based appli­ca­tions.

IBM has cre­at­ed the IBM Wat­son Cog­ni­tive Com­put­ing Com­pe­ti­tion, which brings Wat­son into the aca­d­e­m­ic realm by incor­po­rat­ing the tech­nol­o­gy into an under­grad­u­ate cur­ricu­lum that com­bines com­put­ing skills with entre­pre­neur­ship, and has invit­ed U of T’s Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram. Only 10 uni­ver­si­ties have been select­ed to take part. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is the only Cana­di­an par­tic­i­pant among an elite group that includes Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley and Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty.

“We are delight­ed that IBM has rec­og­nized the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s strength in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence,” said Sven Dick­in­son, chair of the Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence. The depart­ment was recent­ly ranked among the top-10 com­put­er sci­ence depart­ments world­wide in the pres­ti­gious Shang­hai Jiao Tong University’s Aca­d­e­m­ic Rank­ing of World Uni­ver­si­ties. “Not many peo­ple gain exclu­sive access to this tremen­dous resource. This is a fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty for our stu­dents to learn how to deliv­er inno­v­a­tive new AI-based appli­ca­tions to the mar­ket.”

The com­pe­ti­tion will be struc­tured as a half-year fourth-year course, in which stu­dents will work in teams that will use Wat­son to solve a chal­leng­ing big-data prob­lem in a cho­sen indus­try. Stu­dents will devel­op the skills to upload indus­try-rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion into Watson’s body of knowl­edge and train it to pro­vide evi­dence-based respons­es, enabling the sys­tem to learn and improve with each nat­ur­al lan­guage inter­ac­tion. At the same time, stu­dents will learn to think like high-tech entre­pre­neurs and devel­op effec­tive, com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful busi­ness plans that solve real-world chal­lenges, through an entre­pre­neur­ship com­po­nent that includes high-pro­file guest lec­tur­ers.

One team will be select­ed to go on to the Wat­son Chal­lenge in Man­hat­tan, in Jan­u­ary 2015, where the top groups rep­re­sent­ing the 10 par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tu­tions will com­pete for a $100,000 US prize award­ed to the team that cre­ates the most insight­ful and artic­u­late busi­ness pro­pos­al for the IBM Wat­son plat­form.

“By putting Wat­son in the hands of tomorrow’s inno­va­tors, we are unleash­ing the cre­ativ­i­ty of the aca­d­e­m­ic com­mu­ni­ty into a fast-grow­ing ecosys­tem of part­ners who are build­ing trans­for­ma­tive cog­ni­tive com­put­ing appli­ca­tions,” said Michael Rhodin, senior vice pres­i­dent, IBM Wat­son Group. “This is how we will make cog­ni­tive the new stan­dard of com­put­ing across the globe: by inspir­ing all cat­a­lysts of inno­va­tion, from uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus­es to start-up offices, to take Wat­son’s capa­bil­i­ties and cre­ate apps that solve major chal­lenges.”



Orbe­li­na Cortez
Com­put­er Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–946-4098

Kim Luke
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–978-4352