“International Business Machines researchers spent four years developing Watson, the computer smart enough to beat the champions of the quiz show ‘Jeopardy!’ Now they’re trying to figure out how to get those capabilities into the phone in your pocket,” Sarah Frier reports for The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Bernie Meyerson, IBM vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple’s Siri personal assistant,” Frier reports. “A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, ‘When should I plant my corn?’ He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.””

Frier reports, “Apple made Siri the focus of its marketing of the iPhone 4S, which debuted last year. The software is touted as a personal assistant that can answer a wide range of spoken questions – “Do I need an umbrella tomorrow?” – and put appointments in a calendar. Siri has become a defining characteristic of the iPhone, though it’s also drawn complaints. In a June survey by Piper Jaffray & Co., Siri was found to resolve requests correctly less than 70 percent of the time. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for the Cupertino company, said customers are happy with Siri and that Apple will further improve the software in the next version of the iOS operating system.”

“With Watson, IBM aims to tackle more complex questions,” Frier reports. “The program will be able to understand oncology well enough to advise doctors on diagnosis and prescriptions, said Martin Kohn, IBM’s chief medical scientist. One iPad application for Watson – a health care program developed with a Columbia University professor – is being used to demonstrate its medical capabilities for prospective IBM customers.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Attribution: MacNN. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]