Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer developed by IBM, could become a cloud-based service that people can consult on a wide range of issues, the company announced yesterday. "Watson is going to be an advisor and an assistant to all kinds of professional decision-makers, starting in healthcare and then moving beyond. We're already looking at a role for Watson in financial services and in other applications," says John Gordon, Watson Solutions Marketing Manager at IBM in New York.

Watson is a modular supercomputer made up of at least 90 servers with 16,000 gigabytes of RAM, giving its smart learning software plenty of working memory for interpeting the meaning of the natural-language questions asked of it. And as New Scientist revealed a month ago, Watson's ability to sift through and make sense of hundreds of evidence-based, peer-reviewed cancer research papers and clinical guidelines is already proving to be a powerful diagnostic aid to oncologists, in trials at least.