Cars that know you, avatars that sense your emotions, a completely virtual shopping experience and the ability to control a droid using your mind. Just a few years ago, these would have seemed like far fetched futuristic concepts out of a science fiction movie. But they are here. Now.

A number of key technologies have progressed exponentially over the last few years; Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT) and most importantly Artificial Intelligence (AI), or cognitive computing as we like to call it at IBM.

VR and AR enable us to enter a digital world. We can be immersed in a realistic simulation of an environment and control it through movement of our body. IoT brings together connected devices, buildings and everyday objects to create an ecosystem by collecting and exchanging captured data. AI has given access to previously untapped sources of ‘unstructured’ data, such as images, audio, video and text so we can analyse, predict and make better decisions.

These technologies are exciting, but the real beauty comes when we combine them to solve the biggest of challenges. The key has been using our cognitive technologies, Watson, as the platform, or the ‘brain’ of the operation. It bridges the gap between man and machine and enables us to process data that was previously invisible.

IBM’s Watson is a set of cognitive technologies that can think like humans. Watson can ingest unstructured data, understanding its meaning through sensing and interaction. It can reason, generate hypotheses, arguments and recommendations, and unlike a traditional computing system, Watson is not programmed. Rather, it learns.

Watson has been used for a wide range of applications over the last few years, from curing cancer to partnering with DJs to create a hit song. There are also many examples of how Watson has been used alongside VR, AR and IoT technologies and we are excited to share some of these at the Future Realities  as part of NZ’s Tech Week.


-Isuru Fernando, Analytics and Cognitive Principal, IBM New Zealand