IBM's Watson: Why Tonight's Jeopardy Episode Promises to Be OFF-THE-HOOK Good!
Jacqi Levy 270003E0DF JALEVY@US.IBM.COM | | Tags:  supercomputer technology jeopardy ibm watson
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Tonight, IBM's Watson, the supercomputer that has captured the tech world's imagination, takes on humans on ABC's Jeopardy for $1 million dollars. Being the generous supercomputer that he is, if Watson wins, he's donating his earning to charity. And you can be assured that he has a great chance of winning, as he's already beaten several former champs. The showdown starts at 7pm EST, and will continue through Wednesday evening -- make sure you don't miss it!
Why? Because Watson's opponents, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, are no slouches. In fact, they're two of the greatest Jeopardy champs of all time. Jennings holds the record for the longest winning Jeopardy run ever, having emerged victorious in 74 consecutive games during the 2004-2005 season. Though his run wasn't quite as long, Rutter has earned a whopping $3.25 million dollars as a Jeopardy contestant -- the most ever -- by winning three different Tournaments of Champions.
So if IBM's Watson is taking them on, he must be pretty good, right?
YEAH. Pretty darn good. In fact, in a recent post on the subject, Forbes tech blogger Bruce Upbin calls Watson "OFF-THE-HOOK good". And he's played Watson at Jeopardy before. In addition, Stephen Baker, who writes for the Huffington Post, declares that Watson is "Smarter than Google". So if Watson is so smart, why Jeopardy of all challenges he could possibly face? It all traces back to a supercomputer before Watson's time.
Approximately 15 years ago, an earlier generation supercomputer called Deep Blue caused quite a stir when it defeated renowned master Garry Kasparov at a game of chess. The in explaining why chess was an important challenge for Deep Blue, the folks at IBM Research have actually shared a clue as to why this Jeopardy challenge is so significant now.
"With it's 64 squares and limited pattern of movements, chess isn't terribly complicated from a mathematical perspective. A computer's ability to calculate makes it relatively easy to write a program that will play a decent game of chess."
Of course, this is not to say that beating Kasparov was easy -- his chess skills are way beyond what one would consider decent -- but the challenge for a computer like Watson transcends mathematics. In order to get OFF-THE-HOOK good at Jeopardy, Watson requires the ability to process natural language, which is way more nuanced than mathematics. He has to be able to filter through semantics, analogies, and all of the complex things that have posed significant hurdles for computers in processing non-numerical information.
So, now maybe you can begin to see why this is SO exciting. When Watson succeeds at beating the greatest Jeopardy champions, he opens a gateway to a whole new realm of technological innovation. And I'm psyched to be a part of it!
For more information on Waston, visit the IBM Watson site, or check out the below video from YouTube: