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IBM's Watson to challenge humans on Jeopardy

updated 03:25 pm EDT, Mon April 27, 2009

IBM Watson on Jeopardy

Computer component and system maker IBM on Monday said its Question Answering system, codenamed Watson, will make an appearance on the Jeopardy TV game show and compete with human contestants. Watson has been in development for nearly two years, and its creators believe the computer will have the precision and speed necessary to challenge the brightest humans contestants. Watson will not have access to the Internet, but instead rely on what IBM calls massively parallel analytical capabilities.

In Jeopardy, contestants must answer a range of questions regarding topics that range from history, literature, politics, film, pop culture and science. Hints come from the subtle meaning, irony and riddles in the wording of the question, which Watson will have the ability to decode on its own, without any sort of external assistance, IBM says.

While the appearance of Watson on Jeopardy, which has more than 10 million daily viewers, is largely a promotional stunt for IBM meant to showcase the system's capabilities on a grand scale, IBM plans to carry the technology over to the business world.

"The essence of making decisions is recognizing patterns in vast amounts of data, sorting through choices and options, and responding quickly and accurately," IBM chief Samuel Palmisano says. "With advanced computing power and deep analytics, we can infuse business and societal systems with intelligence."

Watson is designed to handle semantics and identify relevant content while dismissing irrelevant information, interpret expressions and puns and decompose questions into sub-questions in a matter of seconds. The system will then decide how confident it is in the answer and produce it.

Neither IBM nor Jeopardy announced when Watson will make its appearance on the game show.

by MacNN Staff



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