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IBM's Supercomputer to Compete on 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 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.

  • aalkema
    Did it win? What's it going to do with all the cash?
    Reply
  • jsloan
    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.
    Reply
  • gimpy1
    If only it could answer the questions in Majel Barrett's voice.
    Reply
  • chaosgs
    Let me guess, this thing connects to Wikipedia to find all the answers?
    Wander when the show airs, i wanna see it.
    Reply
  • NuclearShadow
    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...
    Reply
  • tenor77
    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!"

    Reply
  • thepinkpanther
    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!
    Reply
  • thepinkpanther
    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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • chaosgs
    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.
    Reply