IBM Watson smart assistant rises to answer Alexa and Google Assistant

Watson Assistant
(Image credit: IBM)

Sick of watching Amazon and Google have all the fun, IBM has officially unveiled its very own smart assistant based on its storied Watson technology, simply named the Watson Assistant.

Using Watson as the base of its AI calculations and formerly known as ‘Watson Conversation,’ the Watson Assistant will be accessible via text or voice. IBM’s partners can also choose to incorporate the assistant into their devices or services. 

Herein lies the purported beauty behind Watson Assistant.

IBM isn’t tying its Watson Assistant to any one device or category, but rather licensing out the technology to its countless business partners to implement into their own products and services. With this, IBM’s goal is to get Watson into all sorts of artificial intelligence or machine learning applications.

Whether in your smart home or in your car – as IBM demonstrated at its inaugural Think conference in Las Vegas through a concept Maserati GranCabrio’s digital cockpit, Engadget reports – or even in your hotel room, the idea is for Watson to make those experiences easier.

For instance, in IBM’s example scenario a Watson-powered hotel automatically checks in guests while the room spools up the user’s favorite music and temperature preference; the service could also supply users with a rental car before their arrival. In this scenario, you’d unlock your hotel door with an electronic key in your phone, natch.

The guerrilla fighter in the smart assistant wars

This is clearly IBM’s move to beat its more consumer-bent competitors to a smart assistant for commercial partners, and a follow-up to its Watson for Cybersecurity service. Smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant may have all but conquered the smartphone, tablet, and corners of the smart home, but not so the professional world.

That’s because these assistants have only recently began branching out into other products, almost all of which are consumer-oriented devices and services. Watson Assistant, on the other hand, was built expressly to power businesses’ smart assistant efforts.

On top of that, IBM touts that its approach to smart assistants is, well, smarter, with Watson Assistant promising to learn from your commands and actions and how you carry them out, remembering your preferences. If you allow these Watson-based devices or services to share data over the IBM Cloud that makes the assistant work, Watson Assistant can engage in more realistic conversations with context.

Of course, this assumes mass adoption, not to mention your comfort level with Watson-based services and products sharing your data amongst themselves. IBM promises that Watson is ready and able to protect your data, naturally.

We’ll have to wait some time to see whether Watson Assistant can present a challenged to Alexa and Google Assistant, especially in the car and home categories. Regardless, more choice never hurt anyone.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.