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U Illinois and IBM To Power up Cognitive Computing

A new research center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will explore how machine learning systems can advance cognitive computing. As part of a multiyear collaboration with IBM Research, the university is creating the Center for Cognitive Computing Systems Research (C3SR) on its Urbana campus, set to open this summer. The goal of the center is to "integrate and advance scientific frontiers in both machine learning and heterogeneous computing systems optimized for new cognitive computing workloads," according to a news release.

The C3SR will study and fine-tune the way cognitive computing systems like IBM's Watson technology can learn from multimedia and multimodal content to master a particular subject area. It will build systems that "efficiently ingest vast amounts of data including videos, lecture notes, homework and textbooks, and reason through this knowledge effectively enough to be able to eventually pass a college level exam" — a feat that will be "orders of magnitude better" than the capabilities of today's cognitive systems.

"IBM's collaboration with the University of Illinois will help our researchers to extend the boundaries of cognitive computing and Watson even further," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. "The cognitive era of computing is going to be marked by a full range of disciplines coming together, advancing in parallel to help solve the world's most challenging problems. The University of Illinois' leadership in heterogeneous systems and learning research, its tremendous talent and longstanding relationship with IBM, make it ideal for this endeavor."

To meet the computational demands of cognitive computing, the C3SR researchers will tap into systems technology from the OpenPOWER Foundation, with technical development and support from IBM Systems Group. The hardware designs and cognitive algorithms they develop will be released to the open source community and the OpenPOWER Foundation.

"The study of machine learning and natural language understanding is critical to making sense of the 2.5 billion gigabytes of data being created every single day," said Wen-Mei Hwu, a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois, who will head the C3SR. "Our University of Illinois team is excited to broaden this research with IBM through this new Center, which will further elevate our understanding of the potential for cognitive computing."

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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