Talk to me, Watson.

While on a recent business trip, I was flipping channels in my hotel room, looking for something good to watch in the background. You know, when you need something that is entertaining enough to warrant being on, but no so distracting that you can’t get your work done. I came across the best double feature EVER! Up in the Air followed by The Devil Wears Prada. I know, I know!

This was apropos as I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently and have been investigating the ways in which I can optimize my reward game. A problem I really need to apply analytics to. For example, a prescriptive model that will clearly illustrate for me which carrier will award me the most valuable loyalty points for different itinerary scenarios. Primed and ready to go, my viewing got me considering how technology can solve one of the film’s plot lines. Can technology help people find new career paths and opportunities?

Today, the pairing of prospects with employers based on an industry specific baseline is possible. The winner of a Cognitive Build Hackathon, sponsored by IBM, resulted in such an application. Originally IBM specific and currently being piloted externally, Project Esaki was designed to engage prospective applicants in meaningful conversations based skills and interests as well as a personality analysis, using Watson Personality Insights, an API I discussed in a previous blog post.

As if that wasn’t fun enough (yes, I said fun!), something magical happened next. On a high of having stumbled across a great movie on TV, I was about to call it a night when…The Devil Wears Prada came on. I mean, seriously? Could this lineup be any better? Was Meryl Streep about to keep me up? Yes, yes, she was and I was happy about it.

A comedy, seemingly about a mean boss, is so much more than that. Meryl Streep is excellent in her portrayal of the cold Miranda Priestly, with the highest of standards, who has zero issue with humiliating her new assistant, Andy, played by Anne Hathaway. Quickly, Andy rises to the challenge and begins to impress Miranda, although she’d never let her know that. What struck me most, in my 10th viewing of this movie, was that Andy became quite good at her job, anticipating Miranda’s needs and fulfilling them before they could even be requested. Soon, I began to think that I need an assistant like Andy. No, I don’t need Anne Hathaway following me around all day, but I do need something or someone to know me well enough to make sure that I can get through my days successfully. I need a cognitive assistant!

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been traveling a bit lately and I must admit, I suck at it. So many people I know are meticulously organized with their electronics, cords, travel rituals, etc. They have their books, magazines, digital content queued up and ready to go. And then there’s me, at the gate on a recent trip, realizing I have nothing and attempting to download Marvelous Mrs. Maisel before my plane takes off. I had three hours ahead of me with no content prepared to consume. Can you imagine?

We live in the era of Siri and Alexa, and while there are many, many travel apps at our disposal, none quite meet my current needs. Sure, Siri can handle some stuff. I know what the weather is and if my flight is on time. I might even know what restaurants are nearby and what entertainer is performing at the local arena. This is all fine, but it’s not very specific to me. Here’s the thing, I need more, I need Watson.

I need my cognitive assistant to know me. I need Watson to anticipate my needs and initiate valuable engagement with me.

If, in advance of my recent trip to Atlanta, I was prompted with any of the following, my life would have been a bit easier:

Hey, Christine…

…Your trip is coming up. Let’s get you ready…

…Let me hook you up with some fried chicken, because of course…

…Don’t forget your (dry cleaning, Apple Watch charger, the moisturizer Birchbox is sending, and … )

…You’re 87% of the way through (any one of 7 books). Shall we finish it?

…The new season of One Day at A Time is out. Should I download it? Or, do you want to finally finish The Crown?

…There’s a hackathon in Atlanta. Do you want to RSVP for it?

So, this isn’t a thing yet, right? If it is, I need you to tell me. For now, I’m going to go with this isn’t a thing yet. So, how do we make it a thing? There are a few ways I can think of to get started. First, at its core, what I’m describing is a virtual assistant, cognitive assistant, etc. It’s a chatbot. 

Below is an image of how this might be put together. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.40.19 PM.pngUse Watson conversation on your IBM Cloud Lite account to get started. As you can see, the interface can by anything; a messaging service, application, or an IoT device. Connecting to other Watson services allows for flexibility and the use of APIs that can analyze tone, for example, a data point that can be used to make decisions on engagement. A middle layer, though, can allow a user to opt into connectivity with other applications (that’s where you come in), controlling for security, of course. Connection to all my digital content platforms (music, movies, podcasts, TV, books, etc.) will avoid a situation in which I’m holding my breath for that next episode to download or risk a lengthy conversation with my neighbor. Bottom line, I need a cognitive assistant that will get know me, initiate conversation and, most importantly, make me a better and more efficient traveler.

This is what I need. Can we make it happen?

Get started with your IBM Cloud Light account here, provision some service and build something. Feel free to share what you’ve come up with.

Check out the most recent episode of Unsupervised Binge Watching, where Erica and I discuss chatbots for access to healthcare and my travel needs. You know, important stuff.

Until next time. That’s all…

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