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IBM's Supercomputer Beats Humans at Jeopardy

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 45 comments

The reputations of Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are in ... danger.

IBM's 'Watson' supercomputer has been preparing for its stint on Jeopardy for a long time. In April of 2009, the company revealed its plans to build a question answering (QA) computing system – codenamed Watson – that could understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on the TV show Jeopardy!. IBM said that after two years of development, they planned to put Watson to the test by pitting it against human contestants on the hit show. Well, it’s been two years.

Last week, Watson headed to upstate New York to go head-to-head with Jeopardy legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Though filming for next month’s episode doesn’t actually start until today, Thursday saw Watson and the IBM crowd give us a sneak peek of what we can expect from the QA computing system’s time on Jeopardy!.

Engadget reports that Watson didn’t answer a single question incorrectly and by the end of the game was ahead with $4,400 (Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200). This is a stark contrast to how Watson was portrayed in a video clip shot last year. Posted to IBM’s YouTube, the clip views like a blooper reel and shows Watson getting a ton of questions wrong.

You'll have to wait until next month to see Watson in action for real, but until then, check out the AP’s report, which shows Watson's practice from round yesterday.

IBM Computer Taking on 'Jeopardy!' Champs


Also embedded is the clip IBM released last year, which portrays a much less intimidating Watson.

Watson Goes on Jeopardy!

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  • 7 Hide
    dogman_1234 , January 17, 2011 12:25 AM
    Takes the fun out of the game. Everyone hates a know-it-all! ;) 
  • 8 Hide
    ares1214 , January 17, 2011 12:41 AM
    Ah jeez...the cloud...liquid metal...Predator Drones that select their own targets...now THIS! Skynet, here we come :p 
  • 7 Hide
    fonzy , January 17, 2011 12:43 AM
    Elementary, my dear Watson!
  • Display all 45 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    dogman_1234 , January 17, 2011 12:48 AM
    Alex: This great website is hosted to provide great knowledge to the IT community, as well a enthusiasts."

    *Watson flashed in*

    Alex: Watson

    Watson: What is Tom's Hardware Guide

    Alex: Correct
  • 3 Hide
    goodguy713 , January 17, 2011 12:51 AM
    Seriously im thinking ... sky net .. where is the terminator but yea that would be so useful in so many ways my god the ram alone had to cost about a million bucks thats just nuts.. i think they said like 15 petabytes nuts.. i wonder if it could think up some useful pick up lines for chicks?
  • 1 Hide
    jj463rd , January 17, 2011 12:52 AM
    I would like to see politicians (lawmakers) replaced by computers and for computers to eventually have civil rights as sentient beings.
  • 2 Hide
    goodguy713 , January 17, 2011 12:57 AM
    or should we say hal from 2001 space movie .. they must feed this thing massive amounts of data i wonder how much hardrive storage is tied into that thing..
  • 1 Hide
    NuclearShadow , January 17, 2011 1:04 AM
    I could swear they tried this before and it lost. Oh well good to see they improved it I guess. I'm still not amazed by it however it simply takes key words from the question and if needed uses similar words as possibilities and answers based on what it already "knows" which was put in there by people in the first place. If it was a computer capable of researching and learning on its own to expand its own knowledge then I would be impressed.

    I also have a feeling that the show was sort of geared to make it possible for it to answer. As a computer would be incapable of asking certain types of questions for example a question trying to predict a feeling. While certainly not a question worthy a Jeopardy a question like this "If Jake broke up with Jill what are likely emotions Jill would feel?" would likely make Watson stumped yet its so easy for a person to come up with every possibility.

    Instead Watson is simply a Encyclopedia that tries to calculate what is the most likely meaning of the question through a search function. So a question like "What is the name of Dorthy's dog in the wizard of Oz?"
    would be easily answered by picking up on key words in the sentence and the order that the words appear and picking the most likely answer.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 17, 2011 1:13 AM
    I like ur comment jj43rd about politcians being replaced by computers.

    Loll, interesting my friend. have super computers process all the data from districts look at all the economy , social, environmental impacts and pass the best laws based on whats best for the country. Obviously its scary having computers make decisions for us but interesting concept
  • 3 Hide
    Kileak , January 17, 2011 1:42 AM
    Does it know it is alive?

    Like, if your question would be:

    "The best computer at Jeopardy!"

    Would it answer: "What is Watson?" or "WHO is Watson?"
  • 4 Hide
    tomc100 , January 17, 2011 2:02 AM
    I'll be impressed when a machine can beat an athlete at basketball or gymnastics or any event at the Olympics. Only then will I get worried about machines replacing humans. Calculations and playing chess is all mathematical which computers already surpass humans long ago. Machines can barely walk correctly.
  • 3 Hide
    Mr Pizza , January 17, 2011 2:14 AM
    15TB OF RAM! WTF
  • 3 Hide
    alyoshka , January 17, 2011 3:11 AM
    I wonder if this computer is folding?
  • 3 Hide
    JamesSneed , January 17, 2011 3:11 AM
    @nuclearshadow, you do realize it has to analyze speach for puns and weird ways things are said. The speach recognition to understand what is meant is quite impressive to me at least.

    And your rant on emotions "If Jake broke up with Jill what are likely emotions Jill would feel?" You do realize that if it can understand the meaning of the speach it would understand this meant they were dating and thus would be able to deduce there are 48 posible emotions to choose from and like us it could swag the most likey and like humans it would probably get it wrong.
  • 2 Hide
    f-14 , January 17, 2011 3:13 AM
    2001 nope, 2010, nope 2011 yep! one more step closer to HAL.
  • 1 Hide
    tsnorquist , January 17, 2011 3:15 AM
    "I'm sorry Dave..."
  • 0 Hide
    fans 6 , January 17, 2011 4:17 AM
    But you cannot beat a Russian IBM!
  • 0 Hide
    fans 6 , January 17, 2011 4:17 AM
    But you cannot beat a Russian!
  • -2 Hide
    dogman_1234 , January 17, 2011 4:20 AM
    ...in mother Russia

    f watson and Chuck Norris played Jeopardy together, Chuck would win.
  • 3 Hide
    Digital Dissent , January 17, 2011 4:27 AM
    Alex* "What is a malicious person in society termed?"

    Watson* "What is a human"

    Alex* "...No, that would be a "criminal""

    Watson* "...That is not correct Alex...commencing global network takeover now"
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