CSEE Alumna Dr. Claudia Pearce ('89 M.S., '94 Ph.D., Computer Science) has an article Beyond Watson in the Spring issue of UMBC Magazine. Dr. Pearce is a Senior Computer Science Authority at the National Security Agency and recipient of UMBC's 2014 Alumna of the Year Award in Engineering and Information Technology.
The article describes the technologies behind IBM's Watson Deep Question Answering system and it's significance for the development of future intelligent systems.
"Part of the answer may be found in a series of Beyond Watson workshops and other activities involving university, government, and industry partners, including one held at UMBC in February.
We’re looking at things like natural language, which is at the core of the ultimate computer human interface. Think back to Star Trek, when Spock would say something like: "Computer, what is the probability the Klingons will attack the Enterprise in this sector of the galaxy?" The computer would often engage in a back and forth interaction with Spock, asking for more information or clarification before offering one or more scenarios (and probabilities supporting those scenarios) to aid the crew of the Enterprise in their next move. When we can ask a computer a question and then engage in a dialogue with it in this way, we can freely use computers to their best advantage. This sort of exchange allows us to hone in on an answer (or answers) to our question, supported by knowing both how the information was derived and what level of confidence to place in it.
Envisioning such a model opens up new vistas. We may not be limited to retrieving existing answers from Wikipedia-like text, but use all available data to elicit answers to non-obvious questions, or to queries that have never been asked. We might also dispense with arcane interfaces that are poorly matched to both the task at hand and the needs of users and consumers."