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Skynet...ummm...Watson to compete on Jeopardy!

The producers of Jeopardy! and IBM are in discussions to allow an IBM supercomputer known as Watson to compete on the show against human competition. According to The New York Times, if Watson is able to beat the human competition the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward.

IBM has had success in the past building super computers that were able to best human competitors. In 1997, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer was able to defeat chess world champion Garry Kasparov in a match.

The difference between chess where all pieces have a known value and Jeopardy! is that the trivia questions asked in the game show have a wide and greatly varying range of relationships. These relationships are open to interpretation and the interpretations have to be made very quickly.

The IBM researchers who created Watson -- an homage to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr. -- have said that they are not confident yet that their creation could compete well on the show. The New York Times reports that human champions are able to provide correct response 85% of the time to questions asked.

David A. Ferrucci, an AI researcher at IBM said, "The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms. And we’re not there yet.”

The contest is an effort by the IBM engineers to choose "grand challenges" that will help them make significant technical progress in AI. The rules proposed for the contest will force Watson to emulate all human qualities. Questions posed to Watson will be in text format while players will see text and hear the questions spoken by the show's host.

The computer will offer answers to the question via a synthesized voice and will choose its own follow up categories. IBM says that for the show, the computer would not be connected to the internet. How Watson will be presented and what gender the computer will be are under consideration. A screen and a projected avatar are one consideration.

Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman said, "We’ve only begun to talk about it. We all agree that it shouldn’t look like Robby the Robot."

IBM will move a Blue Gene supercomputer to L.A. for the show.

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First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By 91TTZ on 4/27/2009 12:15:11 PM , Rating: 6
In a Sean Connery voice: "Suck it, Trebek"

"And the day is mine!"

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By monomer on 4/27/2009 12:16:25 PM , Rating: 2
"Who's the man now, Dog?"

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By monomer on 4/27/2009 12:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
Urkkk... "You're..." too early

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By Souka on 4/27/2009 1:48:51 PM , Rating: 5
Alex Trebek: [ interrupting ] Right, Mr. Connery. why don't you pick?

Sean Connery: It looks like this is my lucky day! I'll take "The Rapists" for $200.

Alex Trebek: That's "Therapists." That's "Therapists," not "The Rapists." Let's skip "Therapists" and try "Household Objects", for $400. And the answer is, "You usually drink water out of one of these." [ Sean Connery buzzes in ] Sean Connery.

Sean Connery: A leather glove!

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By Hudly on 4/27/2009 2:03:06 PM , Rating: 5
Connery: "I'll take 'Jap Anus Relations' for $300."

Trebek: "That's 'Japan U.S. Relations'."

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By afkrotch on 4/27/2009 2:32:26 PM , Rating: 1
Trebek: What sound does a dog make?
Connery: Moo
Trebek: That's incorrect.
Connery: Well that's the sound your mother made last night ...

Turd Ferguson!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Souka on 4/27/2009 4:50:29 PM , Rating: 2
pure awesomeness....

By rcsinfo on 4/28/2009 1:11:52 AM , Rating: 3
Alex Trebek : Mr. Connery. Why don't you pick a category?
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!

By Chernobyl68 on 4/27/2009 7:03:41 PM , Rating: 4
Anal Bum Cover for $500 Trebek!

That's "An Album Cover" Mr Connery...

By MozeeToby on 4/27/2009 12:38:26 PM , Rating: 3
"Where in the dictionary would you find the word 'cat'"?

"In the R's!!"

"No Sean, not in the R's"

"That's not what your mother said last night, Trebek!"

By mmntech on 4/27/2009 1:00:00 PM , Rating: 2
I thought it would say "Kebert Xela".

RE: First response from the IBM Supercomputer
By chick0n on 4/27/2009 1:15:35 PM , Rating: 1
"Destroy all humans"

By Gul Westfale on 4/27/2009 1:48:45 PM , Rating: 2
"i shall not pay this fine i have incurred!"

"the game is afoot!"

By FITCamaro on 4/27/2009 3:01:22 PM , Rating: 1
So much win here.

Trebek: Final Jeopardy is, just write down a number. Any number........Any number will do........And lets see what Sean Connery wrote.....the number 0? Are we filming this? That is actually a number. Let's see what you wagered..... You wrote down "BOOBS". Well that's all for Jeopardy tonight. I'm going home to put a gun in my mouth.

By MrPeabody on 4/27/2009 3:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
public string GetResponse(string input)
string response;

response = JeopardyAlgorithm.GenerateResponse(input);
response = "Buck Futter!";

return response;

By shin0bi272 on 4/28/2009 12:04:26 AM , Rating: 2
"I'll take swords for 200 alex"

"Its S words!"

By AlexWade on 4/28/2009 8:58:04 AM , Rating: 2
Really AI?
By Spivonious on 4/27/2009 12:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge? Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

RE: Really AI?
By MozeeToby on 4/27/2009 12:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
It's not so much about the knowledge as it is correctly interpreting the questions (or answers in this case).

Remember when they came out with MovieBots for AOL and you could ask them in plain English about movies in your area? Imagine that, but you could ask it literally anything and have it come back with a coherent answer.

RE: Really AI?
By transamdude95 on 4/27/2009 1:43:37 PM , Rating: 5
Or, in this case, a coherent question...

RE: Really AI?
By stirfry213 on 4/27/2009 12:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same thing. I think the challenge is for a computer to interperet the question correctly so it even knows what to look for.

My question is, will the programming allow the computer to guess wrong. This could be an advantage for the computer it if can't guess wrong. It could also be a great disadvantage, if the computer isn't up for the challenge and guesses wrong alot.

RE: Really AI?
By chmilz on 4/27/2009 12:48:19 PM , Rating: 5
How well this works could have a massive impact on the "search" business. Often search results come up wrong based on the words used in the search bar. If AI becomes better able to interpret what a person was looking for, it could provide much better results.

Fast forward some years and imagine that capability on your phone with voice recognition.

You: Phone, where's the closest place to buy pr0n?
Phone: Big Cid's Vids is 43 metres due south by southeast. Go south on 43st and turn left, heading due east at 112ave. Your destination should be on the north side of the avenue. Please avoid the hookers, I don't respond well to viruses.

RE: Really AI?
By AntiM on 4/27/2009 12:59:20 PM , Rating: 3
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge? Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

I assume it will be a little of both. They really have their work cut out for them with respect to the AI being able to interpret the questions (answers actually), and then form the answer in the form of a question. I wish them luck, but I predict that their first outing will be a big flop, just as the first chess playing AI was.

It would be more interesting if different super computers from different companies could compete with each other on a special show. It could be a competition between colleges to see which one builds the best AI, or different companies, or different countries.

RE: Really AI?
By mofo3k on 4/27/2009 1:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

Actually, it has to interpret the answer correctly and respond with the proper question - it is Jeopardy after all.

Sorry, I had point that out. OTOH, wouldn't it be hilarious if the CPU forgot to answer in question form everytime. Would it be able to adapt on the fly?

RE: Really AI?
By jazzboy69 on 4/27/2009 2:12:53 PM , Rating: 2
It won't adapt to the rules on the fly. That's why it's artificial intelligence. The designers are the ones with the intelligence, and if they don't know the rules to Jeopardy then the thing won't work. In reality no computer on its own has beat a human at anything. Teams of humans have put together machines that have been able to beat a single human at tasks such as chess, but without the team a supercomputer is just an expensive way to heat a building. If the team hasn't seen Saturday Night Live the first answer might be 42.

RE: Really AI?
By inighthawki on 4/28/2009 3:00:48 AM , Rating: 2
well duh, of course it had to be programmed, but artificial intelligence that doesn't mean it cannot be programmed to learn and adjust rules based on external input. There was just recently a robot that could take in data and make correct hypothesis with it, meaning it came to a conclusion on its own.

The human brain is no different. At birth we are essentially programmed to understand and interprete external input/data to make a conclusion. this is nothing more, it just needs a head start on how to do things

RE: Really AI?
By Suntan on 4/27/2009 1:51:52 PM , Rating: 4
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge?

Isn’t that all the human players are doing?

Isn’t one of the goals of AI to mimic human activities? Its not like the human players are being asked to think out problems using logical reasoning, they’re just being asked to answer questions from memory too.


RE: Really AI?
By foolsgambit11 on 4/27/2009 9:46:25 PM , Rating: 3
Not exactly. Certain answers may be simple trivia ("This is the largest country in South America" - "What is Brazil?" - even this is hard to program - speech recognition, largest in what sense, what countries are part of the set of countries if South America, determining the word 'country' means 'nation-state', not 'rural area', etc.). But some categories have multiple decision criteria, linguistic puns, anagrams, etc. It's an incredible challenge, such that I'd recognize the program as possessing some rudimentary intelligence. Take for instance a category from this season, "Anagrams of Compass Directions", where the question is an anagram of a compass point, like, "To think over an issue long and hard" - "What is stew". The AI has to understand the question (answer), which has multiple answers (questions) that could fit. It has to figure out that it must look for a word or words whose definition is Trebek's answer, despite the fact that the definition it has for words will certainly not be worded the same way. Once it has a list of possible answers, it must form anagrams of all of them and compare the results with a list of all compass directions. All in 5 seconds from ringing in. It could perhaps work this problem in the opposite order, or from both sides, but it is certain that the programmers can't program a solution method for all kinds of Jeopardy categories, so the computer will have to come up with a method of arriving at a solution to complex problems on its own. It would be a huge accomplishment if the computer could even do poorly at Jeopardy.

Plus, the computer would have to have overall strategic planning, which would involve understanding of its own categoric strengths and weaknesses.

RE: Really AI?
By shin0bi272 on 4/28/2009 12:03:33 AM , Rating: 1
youre right but in your anagram example the computer would pull up all possible anagrams for all of the compass directions (assuming you are only talking about the cardinal directions) and their definitions and match a definition to the answer in miliseconds. Which wouldnt really be artificial intelligence it would be a well written program.
Artificial intelligence is where you walk up to a computer and ask it how it feels today and it makes a decision based on criteria that it came up with in its own order of importance. Like if it just said "im fine dave" every day you wouldnt think of it as "alive". But if you get a different response every day or it comes back with I feel sick I think I have a virus youd feel like it had a stronger awareness of its internal workings and its external stimuli.

Not knocking your post just pointing out that its not really intelligence if all its doing is systematically matching up definitions of words to possible answers and then phrasing the return in a form of a question. Granted that is how we think more or less but it doesnt mean its artificial intelligence when a pc does it.

If you want to see real ai look up "cog" its a robot that is breaking new ground in AI.

RE: Really AI?
By foolsgambit11 on 4/28/2009 4:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
You're right that it wouldn't be AI if it were programmed to solve the problem (I did mention that it could be solved either way), but the computer, assuming it had been in that game, wouldn't have been programmed to solve that specific problem class, since it hadn't been used. The point was that the computer would have to go about deciding how best to find a solution to the problem, which means in this case that it has to understand what form the answer will take (anagram), properly parse the clue, and understand synonymous definitions/phrases. It is by no means a trivial problem. Even if the computer were programmed to answer problems like this, it would have to recognize that that solution technique was called for in this category.

The problem isn't so simple as a series of string comparisons, because the computer is unlikely to have the definition of words phrased exactly the same as it is phrased in the clue.

It may be possible to program a computer to perform well on Jeopardy without any amount of intelligence (like it turned out to be possible for chess), but the amount of data the computer would have to store would be astronomical. Just feeding it the data would take years.

RE: Really AI?
By Dfere on 4/27/2009 1:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is exactly the question of what is intelligence... The ability to answer a question correctly, or to think independently? And if you examine what the latter means, you usually are making an analysis based on the human condition, so the defining paramaters are critical to what someone typically would call thought.

RE: Really AI?
By borowki2 on 4/27/2009 6:31:53 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, have you guys even seen Jeopardy? The contestants are given the answer and they have to formulate their response as a question.

IBM Supercomputer to Compete on Jeopardy!
By DM0407 on 4/27/2009 12:57:49 PM , Rating: 5
IBM Supercomputer to Compete on Jeopardy!


The producers of Jeopardy! and IBM are in discussions to allow an IBM supercomputer known as Watson to compete on the show against human competition.

David A. Ferrucci, an AI researcher at IBM said, "The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms. And we’re not there yet.”


By Aquila76 on 4/27/2009 1:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
You didn't know that DailyTech posts from the future?

I agree with you, quality control here has gotten rather slack with misleading article titles. I'd like to blame some Apple distortion field, but it wasn't Mick who posted this.

RE: IBM Supercomputer to Compete on Jeopardy!
By tygrus on 4/27/2009 5:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
"converse in Human terms" = visual + verbal. He probably means they need someone to physically type the text on the game screens and progress the virtual game. They could have the game computer feed information from the board at the same time it reveals it on-screen.

Jeopardy supposed questions are answers and the contestant has to respond with phrasing a question that has the text on the board as its answer. Most of the time the text on the board is more like a question and the contestant answers are pointlessly phrased as questions.

Q. Flightless bird of Australia.
A. What is an Emu ?

RE: IBM Supercomputer to Compete on Jeopardy!
By chowmanga on 4/27/2009 9:32:40 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the time the text on the board is more like a question and the contestant answers are pointlessly phrased as questions.

The format isn't pointless. Imagine it the other way around.

Q: "What is an application?"
A: "Something you fill out before you get a job"
Trebek: "I'm sorry an application is something you run on a computer"

By Donovan on 4/28/2009 11:56:57 AM , Rating: 2
I think what tygrus means is that the phrasing as an answer followed by a question is not significant...what matters is that the text they provide uniquely describes something and the response from the player provides that something.

Borrowing from your example, Jeopardy would do:

Trebek: "Something you fill out before you get a job"
Player: "What is an application?"

while another game show would ask:

Host: "What do you fill out before you get a job?"
Player: "An application"

The voice
By Randomblame on 4/28/2009 2:48:53 AM , Rating: 2
If it's not the voice of the HAL 9000 Unit then it should not speak at all.

RE: The voice
By nugundam93 on 4/28/2009 8:34:23 AM , Rating: 2
well we could also have John Henry's voice.

Case character
By HostileEffect on 4/27/2009 12:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
On a side note, I thought case characteristics worked well enough for a gender call and computer name?

By Alphafox78 on 4/27/2009 1:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if they computer will have to ring in like everyone else if it thinks it knows the answer... 'oh, im sorry, the computer rings in first again with 24ms' haha

Suggested Voice
By afkrotch on 4/27/2009 2:12:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'm suggesting Hatsune Miku's voice. IBM should hook up with Yamaha to get the voice.

Hatsu = First
Ne = Sound
Miku = Future

hindered by the buzzer!
By zinfamous on 4/27/2009 4:16:45 PM , Rating: 2
As most people who watch Jeopardy know, the buzzer used to signal your right to uh... "question the answers?" is infamously finicky. I think it was mentioned that Ken Jennings' success was more attributed to his ability to time the click on the buzzer (he seemed to have a fine-tuned understanding of how to work the thing), than to his uncanny knowledge.

If the computer can't pass that crucial threshold, then we may never know its true abilities.

I think the true test of its AI may indeed be an ability to adapt to the stubbornness of the buzzer.

The 4th rule
By MrPoletski on 4/28/2009 7:08:51 AM , Rating: 2
Of the IBM jeopordy winning supercomputer is:

4: Always allow members of IBM corporation to win. [Classified]

Could a car see it!
By Casual Observer on 4/28/2009 11:55:29 AM , Rating: 2
Category: Predicate Calculus -id bid

ans: Most abundant ambivalent atom.

What's on: What is Oxygen, Alex?

Alex: Sorry Watts on, the category is 'id' not 'di' - so ambivalent is not di-valent. Correct question would be, "What is 'The' ".
You're dis-lex-is, lexicon is CHARMING Watts on.

What's on: But Alex I can't squeeze many points from this roll, though.

Alex: No cracks about the id my ego won't take it.

Some similarities here . . .
By blueboy09 on 5/3/2009 2:32:32 AM , Rating: 2
Watson to be like Eagle Eye, hmmmmm.... - BLUEBOY

Air Date
By FITCamaro on 4/27/09, Rating: -1
RE: Air Date
By DM0407 on 4/27/2009 3:13:00 PM , Rating: 2
Thats unlikely...

Computers won't take over until 2012.(I trust the Mayans to predict my computer related apocalypses)

In the mean time we can develop a genetically engineered Asian race to compete against the computers in floating point math operations.

RE: Air Date
By afkrotch on 4/27/2009 3:14:59 PM , Rating: 3
Genetically engineer? Don't they come that way? I mean, I always got As in my math classes as a kid. Sucked at English though.

RE: Air Date
By FITCamaro on 4/27/2009 3:57:50 PM , Rating: 4
Failed the driving test too right?

RE: Air Date
By afkrotch on 4/27/2009 4:03:34 PM , Rating: 5
Not with my coke bottle glasses and riced out import. I can drift into a parallel parking spot, while wearing a fanny pack and taking pictures.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot
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