University of Illinois Partners with IBM to Power Cognitive Computing

The university and tech giant plan to design cognitive computing systems modeled on IBM’s Watson that can master a subject area by learning from multimedia content.

university of illinois

U.S. tech giant IBM has teamed up with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to set up the Center for Cognitive Computing Systems Research (C3SR) in a bid to pioneer next-generation cognitive computing systems.

The center, to be housed within the College of Engineering on the Urbana campus, is scheduled to be opened sometime in the summer this year. Machine learning systems, IBM says, can accelerate a range of cognitive computing applications such as multi-modal education.

The C3SR will build and optimize integrated systems such as cognitive computing systems modeled on IBM’s Watson technology that can master a subject area by learning from multimedia and multi-modal educational content.

Such systems will 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.

“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,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director at IBM Research.

With the increased computational demands of cognitive computing, the researchers will further optimize power systems for cognitive workloads. Researchers will have access to the OpenPOWER Foundation’s systems technology as well as technical development and support from IBM Systems Group.

The new hardware designs and cognitive algorithms will be released to the open source community and OpenPOWER Foundation, of which both IBM and the University of Illinois are members.

The C3SR will be headed by Wen-Mei Hwu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois who will be supported by a team of faculty members, graduate students, and software engineers.

IBM has stated that it will also extend the service of its scientists, who will provide guidance and technology expertise.

“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 Hwu, adding that his team will further elevate the potential for cognitive computing.

To develop its Watson, IBM worked with eight universities around the world. Today, the tech firm is working with more than 250 universities to help teach courses in various cognitive computing disciplines.

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