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IBM's Supercomputer to Compete on Jeopardy!

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 39 comments

Does this count as cheating at Jeopardy?

IBM yesterday revealed its plans to build a question answering (QA) computing system – codenamed Watson – that can understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on Jeopardy!. After two years of development IBM's researchers plan to put Watson to the test by pitting it against human contestants on the hit show.

This isn’t the first time Big Blue has put machine against man; in 1997 IBM defeated World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov by building a computer that could calculate 200 million chess moves per second based on a fixed problem. Watson is a little different, says IBM.

According to Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the IBM Watson project team, who spoke to PCWorld, Watson spent a lot of time studying. "The system would have 'read' many, many natural language texts -- books, reference materials, all kinds of information -- and tried to analyze and organize that information in such a way that it can see the meaning of the question and try to figure out what are likely answers," Ferrucci said.

Addressing the issue of self assurance, Ferrucci said determining the confidence is a really big part of the challenge. "Humans can know what they know very rapidly. This is something the Watson computer is working very hard to do."

Dr. David Ferrucci and IBM's WatsonDr. David Ferrucci and IBM's Watson

While it all sounds like a lot of fun and game shows (i.e., a huge but interesting waste of money), IBM says the research behind Watson is expected to vastly improve computer intelligence and human-to-computer communication. The company says it intends to use the technology being developed for Watson to help clients across a wide variety of industries answer business questions quickly and accurately.

“Progress on the underlying QA technologies enabling Watson will be important in the quest to understand and build ‘intelligent computing systems’ capable of cooperating with humans in language-related tasks previously out of reach for computers,” added Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the IBM Watson project team.

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  • 12 Hide
    tenor77 , April 28, 2009 4:18 PM
    What is unfair, Alex?

    "Sean Connery: I've got to ask you about the Penis Mightier.

    Alex Trebek: What? No. No, no, that is The Pen is Mightier.

    Sean Connery: Gussy it up however you want, Trebek. What matters is does it work? Will it really mighty my penis man?

    Alex Trebek: It's not a product Mr. Connery.

    Sean Connery: Because I've ordered devices like that before, wasted a pretty penny, I don't mind telling you. And if The Penis Mightier works, I'll order a dozen.

    Alex Trebek: It's not a Penis Mightier, Mr. Connery. There's no such thing!

    Nicholas Cage: Wait, wait, wait.. are you selling Penis Mightiers?

    Alex Trebek: No! No, I'm not.

    Sean Connery: Well, you're sitting on a gold mine, Trebek!"

Other Comments
  • -1 Hide
    aalkema , April 28, 2009 3:40 PM
    Did it win? What's it going to do with all the cash?
  • 7 Hide
    jsloan , April 28, 2009 3:45 PM
    one step closer to terminator units running around cleaning up the human race after ibm's watson concludes that we are the problem, a danger to the planet and it the solution to our problems.
  • 1 Hide
    gimpy1 , April 28, 2009 3:56 PM
    If only it could answer the questions in Majel Barrett's voice.
  • -5 Hide
    chaosgs , April 28, 2009 3:57 PM
    Let me guess, this thing connects to Wikipedia to find all the answers?
    Wander when the show airs, i wanna see it.
  • 6 Hide
    NuclearShadow , April 28, 2009 4:10 PM
    aalkemaDid it win? What's it going to do with all the cash?


    I'm sure it didn't compete yet. As for what it plans to do if it wins... Its going to Disneyland! I heard its looking forward to riding on Splash Mountain but something tells me that's a bad idea...
  • 12 Hide
    tenor77 , April 28, 2009 4:18 PM
    What is unfair, Alex?

    "Sean Connery: I've got to ask you about the Penis Mightier.

    Alex Trebek: What? No. No, no, that is The Pen is Mightier.

    Sean Connery: Gussy it up however you want, Trebek. What matters is does it work? Will it really mighty my penis man?

    Alex Trebek: It's not a product Mr. Connery.

    Sean Connery: Because I've ordered devices like that before, wasted a pretty penny, I don't mind telling you. And if The Penis Mightier works, I'll order a dozen.

    Alex Trebek: It's not a Penis Mightier, Mr. Connery. There's no such thing!

    Nicholas Cage: Wait, wait, wait.. are you selling Penis Mightiers?

    Alex Trebek: No! No, I'm not.

    Sean Connery: Well, you're sitting on a gold mine, Trebek!"

  • 4 Hide
    thepinkpanther , April 28, 2009 4:51 PM
    hopefully the categories for the super computer will b: "the feeling u get when ur loved"..."wat emotion to show at the face of death"..."colors of the human soul"...and "hanson and/or jonas brothers" the last 1 will b tricky even 4 actual non stupid band watching humans!
  • 4 Hide
    thepinkpanther , April 28, 2009 4:55 PM
    jsloanone step closer to terminator units running around cleaning up the human race after ibm's watson concludes that we are the problem, a danger to the planet and it the solution to our problems.


    then terminator XP will be prone to virus attacks.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 28, 2009 5:00 PM
    In the development of artificial intelligence, I would hope that they would keep all forms of religious material away from Watson least they should have the misfortune of the system developing self awareness and declare a holy war on us for our sins.

    I can just see it now a self aware, religious fanatic computer system hell bent on retribution!

    Quick Scotty! Pull the Plug on that thing!

    What plug Captain? The darn'd thing ain't got no plug fer me to pull.
  • 5 Hide
    chaosgs , April 28, 2009 5:09 PM
    thepinkpantherhopefully the categories for the super computer will b: "the feeling u get when ur loved"..."wat emotion to show at the face of death"..."colors of the human soul"...and "hanson and/or jonas brothers" the last 1 will b tricky even 4 actual non stupid band watching humans!


    Lol and watch it answer all those questions perfectly.
  • -5 Hide
    crom , April 28, 2009 5:12 PM
    Is it good in bed? I mean, that's what we're all really thinking!
  • 0 Hide
    Wolfshadw , April 28, 2009 5:22 PM
    "I'm sorry Da... er... Alex. I can't answer that right now..."
  • 2 Hide
    verenos , April 28, 2009 5:31 PM
    I want to be there when they ask it the final question and it answers "42"
  • 0 Hide
    T-Bone , April 28, 2009 5:37 PM
    Renegade_WarriorIn the development of artificial intelligence, I would hope that they would keep all forms of religious material away from Watson least they should have the misfortune of the system developing self awareness and declare a holy war on us for our sins.I can just see it now a self aware, religious fanatic computer system hell bent on retribution! Quick Scotty! Pull the Plug on that thing!What plug Captain? The darn'd thing ain't got no plug fer me to pull.

    If it were as simple as getting rid of religion...how easy that would be. But the problem has never really been religion, it's people, man. People.
  • 6 Hide
    frozenlead , April 28, 2009 5:43 PM
    Who wants to play jeporady or chess when you can play Thermonuclear War?
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 28, 2009 5:56 PM
    It may be people, but when it comes to religion, many people throughout history interpret it how they see fit and use it as an excuse to do terrible things.

    So if a self aware computer system were to read all the religious text that is out there, what's to say that the system might just take things literally and decide that us humans are the disease and turn against us?

    It's the human element and the sum of our experience that allows us to interpret such teachings and use them as they were meant to be used.

    Knowledge without experience can readily lead to disaster and a self aware computer system would not have the element of experience to fall back on.

    For decades, mankind has dreamed of self aware machines and they have also feared the possibility of such machines turning against us. All you have to do to see this is look at all the science fiction books that have been written on this subject and all the horror films and sci-fi shows created over the decades.

    Religion is more of a philosophical subject which needs the human element if it is to be interpreted correctly which is why I say to keep such material away from the Watson system.

    I would not want to live in such an era in which the Terminator story line becomes reality.

    In the development of AI machines, I would hope that scientists would include safeguards to keep the machines from turning on us no matter how remote the possibility might be.

    After all, us humans do enough violence without the need for a self aware machine deciding that we are the disease.
  • 0 Hide
    the_one111 , April 28, 2009 6:12 PM
    NuclearShadowI'm sure it didn't compete yet. As for what it plans to do if it wins... Its going to Disneyland! I heard its looking forward to riding on Splash Mountain but something tells me that's a bad idea...

    Nah, he's going to "mineral oil" splash mountain, he will be fine.
  • 0 Hide
    FrozenGpu , April 28, 2009 6:19 PM
    jsloanone step closer to terminator units running around cleaning up the human race after ibm's watson concludes that we are the problem, a danger to the planet and it the solution to our problems.


    hmm....skynet?
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , April 28, 2009 6:39 PM
    But will it play Crysis at 2560x1600, 16xAA, and 16xAF?
  • 1 Hide
    Wayoffbase , April 28, 2009 6:48 PM
    Bill Gates is hereBut will it play Crysis at 2560x1600, 16xAA, and 16xAF?


    It's capable of running those settings, but it just isn't interested in run and gun shooters no matter how pretty they are. Just get it addicted to WOW and we don't have to worry about it doing anything else. I bet it would really enjoy eve online too.
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