IBM will offer its Watson technology, which beat humans in "Jeopardy!," as a building block for startup companies making business software.
"We'll launch an ecosystem where Watson is a service and you build applications around it," Chief Executive Ginni Rometty said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Venture Capital Association in San Francisco.
Rometty has been taking steps to commercialize Watson, a high-powered computer that can answer questions after being preloaded with documents and websites. It has been deployed in the health and finance markets since its debut on the trivia show "Jeopardy!" in 2011, with its first products for the doctors and medical researchers announced this year.
Soon, other businesses will be able to design software that takes advantage of Watson's cognitive computing technology. Rometty said the move would help usher in an era of "systems that learn on their own."
"That's what will be of value in the future, this domain expertise," Rometty said today. "It's a question-and-answer, it's not a search."
Armonk-based IBM has already worked with doctors to build applications using Watson's technology, including one that can be used to help diagnose and treat certain types of cancer. The doctor inputs information about the patient's condition, and then Watson responds with a possible diagnosis and treatment plan, displaying the evidence and percentage of confidence for each theory.
In 2012, Watson became 240 percent faster and 75 percent smaller so it can run on a single server, IBM said in February. The Armonk, New York-based company now can install a Watson machine on-site for a business or remotely via cloud computing to a personal computer, tablet or smartphone.
Rometty didn't indicate how many developers would get access to Watson's technology.