IBM’s latest patents collection looks to give a human touch to its computers

According to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was granted the most U.S. patents for the 23rd consecutive year in 2015.

In 2015, IBM was granted 7,355 patents, with more than 2,000 in areas related to cognitive computing and the company’s cloud platform. Last year, IBM announced that it has rearranged its entire business strategy around the promise of cognitive computers, which can learn, reason, and efficiently process diverse data types all while interacting with people in natural and familiar ways.

Two patents specifically mentioned in the IBM press release are Patent US9117446, which helps machines understand human emotion, and Patent US9146917, which helps machines learn from human beings.

“IBM’s patent leadership demonstrates our unparalleled commitment to the fundamental R&D necessary to drive progress in business and society,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, president and CEO.

IBM’s leaders believe cognitive computing will have a profound impact on business and society, helping people to make better decisions in their personal and professional lives, democratizing expertise, and transforming industries and professions.

“I have a lot of different groups that I work with that brainstorm and come up with ideas of where technology at IBM is likely to head,” said Dr. James Kozloski, a researcher and inventor at IBM who last year received a patent for a computer system that would help people with Alzheimer’s fill in memory gaps.

These predictions led to IBM being granted multiple patents surrounding more human-like computing technology in 2015. Amongst the numerous patents granted is the patent for a new processor that impersonates the human brain to competently make decisions and adjust while in the middle of processing information. Then, there is another patent that builds on the Watson system to help computers judge information to find out if something is relevant and reliable. In addition, IBM researchers have patented a system that helps computers to better understand and interpret human emotion during communication along with another patent that betters a computer’s ability to learn through human interaction.

If we look Kozloski’s Alzheimer’s aid invention through his perspective, computers with their own intelligence is not far off. For example, you would have had something similar to a full-service AI caretaker, if you had a program, or even a robot, that was created to assist you in the early stages of Alzheimer’s by remembering names or appointments. Further, if it would have been injected with the ability to judge information, it could also understand your emotions, and learn new language and skills from you.

However, Kozloski said this is the not the exact goal of IBM. Even though these technologies, which are called cognitive models, are made of each other, they also do function on their own. He added that IBM is not concentrating on designing some kind of Ex Machina human brain replica.

“It’s an extreme vision of where human-computer interaction can go,” Kozloski told Motherboard. “Artificial intelligence has many meanings. Models of cognition will be perfected when artificial intelligence is purely brain-based, but we’re not there yet and it may not be necessary [to get there] to see the benefits of cognitive models.”

Applying for patent does not necessarily mean that the technology will be completed, said Kozloski “We set that bar pretty high that this idea is business viable,” he said. “Then it becomes a decision of where the research investment is made. But once we get the patent, it’s always there, it’s available.”

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