Challenge IBM's Watson, see the best mobile apps and more at FOSE

On the FOSE 2011 show floor, you can match wits with Watson, hang out at the BlackBerry Lounge, spend time at the Mobile Apps Theater and take in a full roster of live demonstrations.

It’s hard to believe that FOSE is a week away. Since we moved the show to the summer months, it seems like forever now waiting for it to roll around. The good news is that I think the wait will be worth it, as the show this year promises to be one of the best when it rolls into town from July 19-21.

OK, for full disclosure, I’m probably most excited about getting to meet Watson, IBM’s “Jeopardy!” winning computer, in person and up close. On July 20, at 9 a.m., IBM will present a talk on the implications of the technology used to create Watson, and where it ultimately will take us.

You can even stop by the IBM booth and challenge Watson yourself — and just think of the bragging rights if you can somehow beat him.

Now, some people have asked that, given my criticisms of Watson’s appearance on “Jeopardy!” — specifically, that it (I keep going back and forth whether to call him "it" or "he") was given an unfair advantage on the TV show — if I would be stepping up to challenge the know-it-all-machine at FOSE myself.

The truth is that I’m in awe of Watson. I fault “Jeopardy!” for giving the computer a leg up over its human competitors, but I don't blame the computer itself. So yes, I do want to take on Watson. But, to make things fair, I think we should step out of the “Jeopardy!” arena. So I am officially challenging Watson to a game of ice hockey. The gauntlet has been thrown. Then again, given how badly I skate, the match won’t be all that uneven. And I hear he’s a pretty mean goalie.

Research in Motion is also coming to FOSE, and taking the “go big or go home” theory by bringing in an 18-wheeler known as the Mobile Tour Vehicle to show off the new BlackBerry PlayBook.

Now, you don’t normally need a semi to transport a mobile device, but this thing comes packed with a lot of cool extras, such as demo stations, a bridging device area to connect PlayBooks with BlackBerry smart phones and a giant theater.

In addition to the truck, there is also the BlackBerry Lounge this year, where the cool people can be hang out for a while. Current BlackBerry users can charge up their devices in the lounge, swap out dying batteries for a new one, or simply kick back and relax. In fact, if you are feeling lucky, RIM is even giving away some great prizes at FOSE this year, including a shiny new PlayBook. How green with envy I’ll be of the people who win those.

And here is something completely new for the show: the Mobile Apps Experience. We all know that the world is ruled by applications, or apps, so it makes sense to bring them into FOSE. In the Mobile Apps Theater, you will find daily presentations of the best government-focused apps designed for the Apple iOS platform, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Google’s Android.

And the apps sound amazing, too. There is everything from geographic information system mapping to a graffiti-reporting tool to a way to make your agency security forces more efficient. Many of the apps shown in the theater will have full-on presentations demonstrating how they work and will also be available to try out and install at the show.

In fact, lots of people and companies will keep things lively on the show floor this year, with prize raffles, interactive computing events and some pretty interesting live demonstrations. Click on this link to get a mostly full list of events going on every day.

Of course, the GCN Lab team will be there, judging the best and brightest products at the show for the Best New Technology Awards. We’ll be wearing our traditional dark blue lab coats. If you see one of us, feel free to stop us and say hello. We love meeting new people, and we'll even direct you to some of the coolest things we’ve experienced so far. It should be a great show, and we hope to see you there at FOSE 2011.