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In February 2011, the world was introduced to Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing system that defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at Jeopardy!. It was the first widely seen demonstration of cognitive computing, and it marked the end of the so-called AI winter. The programmable systems that had revolutionized life over the previous six decades could not have made sense of the messy, unstructured data required to play Jeopardy!. Watson’s ability to answer subtle, complex, pun-laden questions made clear that a new era of computing was at hand.

Since Jeopardy!, Watson has tackled increasingly complex data sets and developed understanding, reasoning and learning that go far beyond deciphering. Indeed, the goal of cognitive computing is to illuminate aspects of our world that were previously invisible — patterns and insight in unstructured data, in particular — allowing us to make more informed decisions about more consequential matters. The true potential of the Cognitive Era will be realized by combining the data analytics and statistical reasoning of machines with uniquely human qualities, such as self-directed goals, common sense and ethical values. (text by Dr. John E. Kelly III, Sr VP, IBM)

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM asserts that we have been in the "Digital Era" of computing and now we are transitioning to the "Cognitive Era" of computing.

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