IBM has decided that helping hospitals run without delays or supply shortages isn’t enough any longer. The company has now set out to develop an AI (artificial intelligence) that will help doctors in the examination room.
The International Business Machines (IBM) expressed interest in buying Merge Healthcare Inc, a company that sells systems which help health experts store medical images and have easier access to them.
If the two companies merge, IBM intends to use Merge Healthcare’s 30 billion images of X-rays, computerized tomography, as well as magnetic resonance imaging scans, to teach its AI, Watson, to identify illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. The goal is to provide doctors with technology that can help them diagnose patients early on and treat them more efficiently.
The project was inspired by the software used by Google Inc and Yahoo Inc’s Flicker. IBM figured that if these companies can use algorithms that can identify specific objects in images, then the same technology that can identify cats, can also identify tumors for instance.
Some have speculated that IBM’s decision is more commercial than altruistic. If the projects is successful, the company gets its own share of the $7.2 trillion that are being spent on health care world-wide, on a yearly basis.
But like it or not, IBM’s next move may also benefit companies that use computer-driven interpretation for medical images, and revolutionize the services that they offer. These type images of are currently anonymized by hospitals and shared with researchers thanks in part to the wide embrace of deep learning algorithms.
Deep learning algorithms are used by AI developers to teach robots to recognize certain patterns after looking at large amounts of data. So far commercial companies have used the technology to interpret photos, improve voice recognition systems in smartphones, and detect frauds in financial transactions.
And IBM hopes to soon add tumor recognition to that list according to John E. Kelly, the company’s senior vice president. But it’s worth mentioning that the technology would be useful to everyone from radiologists to dermatologists.
John Eng, associate professor of radiology from Johns Hopkins University, also believes in the project. He gave a statement saying that “In medical data, there’s lots of ambiguity and lots of fuzziness. It’s kind of messy data, and I think that’s going to be a limiting factor with what IBM does with Watson”.
IBM has already started testing Watson with research teams from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and the Cleveland Clinic.
Image Source: d.ibtimes.co.uk