Watson steps up to launch IBM's new Auckland office

Watson steps up to launch IBM's new Auckland office

Kiwi cognitive computing leaders help give IBM's office launch a futuristic flavour.

A customer service avatar and a virtual supermarket helped showcase the business opportunities for artificial intelligence applications at the official launch of IBM's new Auckland office today.

IBM Watson partners Soul Machines and Lumaten, both based in Auckland, demonstrated how businesses can deploy artificial intelligence in customer service and market research.

Soul Machines, best known for its ground-breaking Baby-X emotionally intelligent avatar, demonstrated a new development, Rachel, giving online service to help a customer choose a credit card.

Rachel first debuted at the LendIt financial services conference in New York in March and follows another new avatar, Nadia, now being deployed by Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme to help service people with disabilities.

Lumaten with investor Rush Digital has developed a cognitive market research platform called Shopper360 to allow research into real-world consumer behaviour.

Shoppers can be sent into the virtual supermarket wearing virtual reality headsets and their behaviours and reactions studied to see which combinations of price, promotion and packaging affect sales.

The virtual option is both cheaper and in many cases easier to deploy than actual testing in supermarkets, Lumaten co-founder Paul Fitzgerald said. It also enables more radical ideas to be tested.

Lumaten has been working with new entrant ice cream brand Bulla to help refine its supermarket offering.

IBM's global development lead, Joshua Carr, demonstrated control of a BB-8 toy droid using "brainwaves" read by an Emotiv headset. The headset was connected via Bluetooth to the droid via IBM's NodeRed Internet of Things platform.

IBM has relocated a short distance from the bottom of the city to the new Wynyard Quarter innovation precinct. The office faces both Microsoft and HP on one side dairy giant Fonterra's new building on the other.

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