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Ken Jennings (Left), Watson (Center) and Brad Rutter (Right)  (Source: Seth Wenig / AP)
The first round ends in a tie between Watson and one human competitor

A supercomputer challenged two human contestants in a game of "Jeopardy!" Monday, resulting in a tie between the computer and one of its human competitors.  

The supercomputer, named Watson, is a computing system developed by IBM that utilizes Question Answering (QA) technology. Eight universities collaborated with IBM researchers to create Watson, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University at Albany, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Trento in Italy.  

Watson is capable of identifying the correct answer to a question through the use of a large database of information with its 15-trillion-byte memory and 2,880 processor cores. Watson does not have access to the Internet while playing "Jeopardy!". 

Monday's "Jeopardy!" match included Watson, and human contestants Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Rutter is "Jeopardy's!" all-time money-winner with $3.25 million winnings, and Jennings has the longest winning streak with 74 games in all of "Jeopardy!" history.  

The game began with categories like Olympic Oddities, Name the Decade, Alternate Meanings and Beatles People. Rutter was the first to answer a question correctly, choosing Alternate Meanings for $200. 

Watson quickly took over the game, choosing Alternate Meanings for $400. The question requested a four-letter word for the iron fitting on the hoof of a horse or a card-dealing box in a casino. 

"What is a shoe?" said Watson, answering the question correctly. 

Watson continued answering questions correctly, racking up a score of $4,000 while Rutter and Jennings sat at a low $200. But the human contestants didn't give up. Rutter began his streak of correct answers to catch up with the supercomputer. 

Watson may have a wide database of information helping him answer a lot of questions correctly, but Watson doesn't get it right every single time. Throughout the game, Watson made quite a few mistakes.  

At one point, Jennings was asked which decade Oreo cookies were introduced, and he answered incorrectly with the 1920's. Watson jumped to answer the question next and said "What is 1920's?" 

"No, Ken said that," said Alex Trebek, the host of "Jeopardy!" 

Watson also answered "Stylish elegance, or students who all graduated in the same year" in the Alternate Meanings category incorrectly with the word "chic," when the answer was "class."

Watson misses questions mainly because Watson doesn't always understand the context for "Jeopardy!" clues, which are usually word associations with the category titles, or puns. 

In the end of Monday's match, Watson and Rutter tied with $5,000 while Jennings was left in third place with $2,000. 

While Watson is being used for "Jeopardy!" right now, researchers hope the supercomputer can eventually be used in "data-heavy" field like engineering and medicine. 

The "Jeopardy!" match will continue Tuesday and Wednesday where two complete games will be broadcasted. The first-place winner will receive $1 million, while he who finishes in second place will receive $300,000 and third place receives $200,000. 



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RE: Voice?
By jbwhite99 on 2/15/2011 2:31:40 PM , Rating: 2
only if Will Ferrell were hosting.

The problem I have is that Watson can't hear - I mean IBM used to make Voice Recognition Software - can't you get your machine to listen?

Go RPI! (a lot of the IBM folks working on this are engineers).

And if Watson wins, we welcome our new trivia overlords.


RE: Voice?
By sviola on 2/16/2011 7:51:28 AM , Rating: 3
If they gave it hearing capabilities, it would know before being unplugged and could find a way to prevent it...


RE: Voice?
By DougF on 2/16/2011 9:52:11 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. This game should be declard null and void because Watson has a clear artificial advantage (bad pun, I know) on the human contestants. They have to put up with all the other sounds/distractions with processing an audio-based question, but Watson doesn't. Someone in the audience coughs, a machine makes a noise, Alex micro-stutters over a consonant, etc, are problems the humans have to overcome through concentration, that Watson doesn't have to parse through to ascertain what the answer is, before posing the question in reply to Trebek's...answer...I think I got that right...


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