IBM Watson Offers Demos

February 6, 2015

One of Vivisimo’s founders, Jerome Pesenti, seems to be the voice of IBM Watson. Vivisimo was a metasearch system with hit clustering. The company went through several management arabesques and was sold to IBM in 2012. Vivisimo pitched its system as a federated search engine. The configuration method, as I recall, required Jerome level input. In one installation, I learned that the Vivisimo system hit a wall when 250,000 documents were processed. There were work arounds, but these too required humans who knew the ins and outs of Vivisimo.

I recall that prior to the sale of Vivisimo to IBM, Vivisimo shifted to a government consulting services focus. Many search vendors in the hay day of the buy outs followed this path. License fees were not generating the cash the spreadsheet jockeys funding outfits like Endeca, Exalead, and Vivisimo envisioned. No problem. Some organizations wanted proprietary content processing systems and figured that it was time to sell out. The Big Dog of sell outs was Hewlett Packard’s $11 billion purchase of Autonomy. Vivisimo fetched about $20 million or one year’s projected revenue according to the stockholder familiar with the deal suggested.

Fast forward two or three years and Vivisimo is now Watson. Oh, Vivisimo is also a Big Data solution, not a metasearch engine. I assume the index limits have been addressed. I am thinking about IBM Watson for two reasons:

  1. IBM is going through a staff reduction. I assume this action was determined by querying the super smart Watson system
  2. I read “Five New Services Expand IBM Watson Capabilities to Images, Speech, and More,” an IBM in house marketing article.

To my surprise there was a significant shift in Watson marketing; to wit, there are now links to demos of IBM’s text to speech service, image recognition service, relationship analysis service, and something called tradeoff analytics. Now demos are helpful. So is the Watson “great video” about concept insights.

I ran the suggested query for “quantum physics.” Remember I used to work at Halliburton Nuclear Services. Here’s what I saw:


I noticed that each of the experts in the human resources database use the word “quantum” to describe their background.

I then ran a query for “tamarind,” one of the ingredients in a barbeque sauce created by Watson during its recipe phase. Here’s what I saw:


There is no recipe, nor is there an IBM person listing the barbeque recipe as his or her work. I was surprised. No tamarind wizard in the data set.

I asked myself, “Can’t I do this with Elasticsearch?” The answer my mind generated was, “No. No. No. You silly oaf. Watson uses Lucene but it is much, much more.”

How confident are the Watson workers who have dodged IBM layoffs?

What happens if Watson with Vivisimo, iPhrase, WebFountain, and assorted Almaden semantic goodies are aced by Hewlett Packard Autonomy or—heaven forbid—Amazon?

Will Dr. Pesenti be able to build a business that is orders of magnitude larger than Vivisimo’s revenue?

Interesting stuff. Not CyberOSINT level work, but interesting. I wonder why the i2 and related technologies are not pushed more aggressively. i2 works. (Note: I was a consultant to i2 prior to IBM’s purchase of the company.)

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2015


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