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Even IBM's Watson Is Getting Into 'Pokémon Go'

Players must have Watson's visual recognition API with Watson's Internet of Things platform installed for it to work.
July 23, 2016, 1:00pm

IBM's supercomputer Watson has maintained its interest in games since beating Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! back in 2011. In fact, like many of the rest of us, it's busy playing Pokémon Go.

Michael Hsu, a software developer from California, won the "best Use of Watson" award last weekend from AT&T's Shape hackathon in San Francisco after he used Watson's visual recognition API with Watson's Internet of Things platform to get the supercomputer to play Pokémon Go for him. Watson watched the Pokémon Go appasit ran on other players' smartphones, took occasional screenshots to identify the pokémon, and reported when players found rare battle pets.

"Watson can track pokémon around the world and other players can see there's a really rare one that I want really bad over here, somebody else found it, now I can go get it," said IBM's Stefania Kaczmarczyk in the above video about Hsu's work.

Luckily, Watson's approach to this is participatory rather than invasive. If you don't have the API installed, won't have to worry about someone (in this case, at least) using your Pokémon Go data for sinister ends. "You have to be running the app on your device for the API to work. It is looking at your app, not looking across everyone's app," Bret Greenstein, vice president of Watson's Internet of Things platform, informed me in an email. "That would be an incredible feature, but that would also create all kinds of issues of privacy and access to Nintendo's data in their app."

Greenstein also told me the app will be shared on GitHub for other developers to tinker with, but they have no plans to release it as a finished product for end users.

"Although I think it would be amazing if we did," he said, "so I won't rule it out in the future!"