IBM and MIT team up to launch an AI lab set to make Watson even smarter

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The days when IBM was known best for its PCs and computer components are long gone. The company is now a leading force in the rise of AI, yet what most don't realise is the firm has been engaged in machine learning since the 1950s. Thanks to years of research in this field, Big Blue has been able to carve a name for itself as one of the leaders in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), leading to the more recent success of its Watson AI-powered supercomputer.

And it isn't stopping there. In its latest efforts, the tech giant has announced it will spend $240 million to build a Watson-branded artificial intelligence research lab in a bid to boost the how smart the machine is.

The lab will be built in collaboration with long-time partner, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an institution that was home to one of the first labs dedicated solely to AI research, with the partnership set to last for over a decade.

IBM said that with the help of its fellow scientists at MIT, the centre will explore new materials, devices and architectures for analogue AI computation, as well as quantum computing and machine learning. It will therefore concentrate on four key pillars for collaboration: core algorithmic advancements that enable learning and reasoning to broaden what AI systems can do; computational innovations tailored to AI and achieved through a mastery of physics; applications of AI to important domains like healthcare and cybersecurity; and finally, achieving "shared prosperity" through AI tech.

"Each one of these areas touches upon our fundamental beliefs about the future of AI and where we believe it can and should go," said IBM's vice president of AI and IBM Q, Dario Gil.

"To add to our enthusiasm around each one of these pillars individually is our belief that bringing them all together will offer profound opportunities. We intend to develop the next generation of AI algorithms using accelerated computation, achieved through our mastery of physics, which we apply ethically and in pursuit of shared prosperity, e.g. for better health outcomes and a safer future."The people in the new Watson AI lab will work at the MIT campus as well as IBM's Watson Health and Security facilities nearby, Gil added.

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