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IBM pits man vs machine on quiz show

Watson QA artificial intelligence to compete against Jeopardy! champions

IBM pits man vs machine on quiz show
Watson is a Deep QA engine that uses a wide range of algorithms to analyse data
IBM pits man vs machine on quiz show
Watson has taken four years to be ready for Jeopardy! says Ferrucci
IBM pits man vs machine on quiz show
Watson will be up against two Jeopardy! champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, who showed around a 90% accuracy rate when answering questions on the show

IBM is to pit a new computer system against human opponents on a special ‘man vs machine' series of the US game show Jeopardy!

The ‘Question and Answering' (QA) computer, dubbed ‘Watson' after IBM founder Tom Watson, will compete against the show's two most successful contestants on three consecutive night's in February next year, for a $1 million prize.

Watson, a DeepQA engine is housed on an IBM Power 7 server, uses a number of proprietary technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time. Watson will not be connected to the internet, and will have to ‘buzz in' to answer questions the same as a human contestant. The system combines a large number of analytical algorithms to process the data, along with other capabilities such as speech recognition to understand the questions.

Jeopardy! was selected because the show's question format includes clues in the question, which means the QA engine has to analyze subtle meaning, irony, slang, riddles, and other complexities to arrive at an answer, a highly complicated task for a machine. Jeopardy! also punishes contestants for wrong answers, so Watson will also need to rate confidence in the accuracy of the answers before buzzing to answer.

The IBM team believes that the Watson engine is a breakthrough in QA science, and will be able to rival human ability to quickly and accurately answer natural language questions.

"After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response," said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson. "Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson's breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives." 

"We're thrilled that Jeopardy! is considered a benchmark of ultimate knowledge," said Harry Friedman, Executive Producer of Jeopardy! "Performing well on Jeopardy! requires a combination of skills, and it will be fascinating to see whether a computer can compete against arguably the two best Jeopardy! players ever."

Watson will take part in 50 training matches between now and the show, with coverage available on the IBM Watson website.

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