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July 24, 2014

How IBM’s Watson is helping US soldiers prepare for post-military life

Military members can ask the supercomputer for advice at no cost.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, is looking to help members of the military prepare for civilian life.

The United Services Automobile Association (USAA), which provides financial services to military members and their families, is rolling out what is billed by IBM as the first commercial Watson application, "Ask Watson".

"Putting Watson into the hands of consumers is a critical milestone toward improving how we work and live," said Mike Rhodin, SVP of IBM Watson Group in a statement.

"We believe this new service can help men and women who served their country gain timely and relevant insights into the steps they need to successfully move to civilian life."

USSA members can type in questions at the company’s website, such as how best to write a resume or make the most of GI Bill benefits, and Watson will provide "relevant feedback".

"Through this experience, we expect to learn how intelligent assistants like IBM Watson can help service members who may not know exactly where or how to start the daunting transition process," said Shon Manasco, VP of member experience at USAA and a veteran.

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The supercomputer, which is said to be 2,400 times powerful than when it was demoed on Jeopardy! in 2011, analysed thousands of documents on topics related to soldiers leaving the military and can now answer natural language questions on the topic, according to IBM.

The partnership marks the first time Watson is being deployed directly to consumers.

It also comes almost a month after IBM began a Watson pilot for select Internet users that would create new recipes for home chefs.

Watson will be rolled out in USAA’s mobile-phone and iPad app by next month.

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