DES AI Architect to Present at IBM Think 2021

Can you teach an AI to have human-like comprehension of language? Mike Pointer unveils a new business use-case.
May 7, 2021

Can you teach an AI to have human-like comprehension of language?

This is the theme of an upcoming panel discussion at IBM Think 2021 Digital Experience Conference. Using the latest features in IBM Watson Discovery, DES Principal Solutions Architect, Mike Pointer, will demonstrate how AI-powered search can be trained to solve industry-specific reading comprehension tasks. Or, in other words, show how an AI can solve any business task that involves a reading, research and comprehension component -- thus saving business time and money.

Humans Think, Speak and Write—So Does AI

But first, a brief explainer. Natural Language Processing (NLP) allows an AI to recognize and understand human language. As we have seen with Google Search and Alexa Home Assistant, we can interact using the quirks and euphemisms of human expression, and then receive a reasonably accurate response.

Though, there is much more to language processing than a direct response to human queries. For example, through the appropriate training, we can teach an AI an assortment of complex comprehension skills such as discriminating between positive and negative sentiments, classifying documents, or assigning metadata tags to your assets. Using Natural Language Generation (NLG), an AI can be trained to automatically generate text responses from input text, such as an answer from a natural language question and a text passage. All these are highly critical language processing tasks that humans do intuitively.

Leveling the Playing Field with IBM Watson

In an historic event in 2011, IBM’s Watson computing system outplayed the human competitors in the TV quiz show, Jeopardy. Since then, IBM has steadily developed the Watson system for commercial applications. Currently, Watson is comprised of a suite of products that solve business problems. For instance, IBM Watson Assistant is a tool that builds customer support chatbots or voice agents; IBM Watson Studio is a sandbox tool that helps AI developers to build and run machine learning models. IBM Watson Discovery – a focus of Mike’s software development at DES – is a tool designed to intelligently research documents.

Arguably, the biggest impact of IBM Watson is the relative accessibility and affordability of AI tools. Whereas in the past, developing a custom AI application would require extensive time and financial resources, now these core building blocks are ready-built and need only be customized for your specific business application. An experienced AI solution architect will marry, if you will, your business needs with the Watson toolkit, providing you with a tailored and scalable AI solution.

Wielding Document Search with Surgical Precision

In his panel presentation at IBM Think 2021, Mike explains how he has trained the newest comprehension capability of IBM Watson Discovery. Previously, Watson Discovery would respond to user queries by displaying a suggested paragraph; now, it will search with surgical precision and display a concise and targeted answer. For example, a financial institution making a lending decision. Typically, they would need to manually parse through many documents to identify the necessary facts. Now, a user could ask, “What is the term of this current loan?” and be provided with the precise answer - “2.9%”.

At Pittsburgh AI Works, the AI division of DES, Mike and his team have been deploying this feature in several real-world business applications. In one use-case, the AI is trained on a multi hundred-page technical manual. Oftentimes, while service technicians are out in the field, they must reference industry regulations and local and municipal codes. Using AI, they can input a query and get an instant and surgical response.

In another use case, leasing agents in a property management company spend inordinate time reviewing leasing contracts. Using the AI, agents are shown which contracts have unusual exceptions and must be reviewed – and which do not and can be swiftly shelved.

AI Expert Assist: Your Smart and Scalable Language Bot

To answer our initial question – Yes! An AI can indeed have a human-like comprehension of language, and there are many ways that can support your business. Pittsburgh AI Works offers entirely customizable AI tools to meet your targeted business needs. We work with you to identify an AI application that will accelerate your workflow. We build and rapidly deploy a scalable AI solution. With our commitment to speed-to-value, your knowledge workers will be mobilized with the power of IBM Watson Discovery. Learn more about AI Expert Assist and the possibilities of AI for your business at