TV Reminder: Jeopardy champs face off against Watson supercomputer this week! [Update: results]

Posted in News,Television by Scott Meisner on February 14th, 2011

Here’s a healthy reminder that Jeopardy champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will face off against each other and the supercomputer known endearingly as Watson this week. The man vs. machine 3-night competition begins tonight and will run through Wednesday the 16th. Jeopardy airs at 7PM ET on ABC. Fill your brain with knowledge about Watson’s abilities before tuning in tonight, then let Judgment Day the games begin!

Update: No surprise here; Watson dominated and destroyed the species that created it. After the three-day, two game competition the scores tallied like this:  Rutter scored $21,600; Jennings $24,000; and Watson a whopping $77,147. In the end, these amounts were wiped away and replaced by fixed scores of $200,000, $300,000, and $1 million, respectively. The two human contestants agreed to share half their winnings with their charity of choice. All of Watson’s earnings will find their way to a charity selected by IBM called Skynet World Vision and World Community Grid.

With Watson on board, Jeopardy received its biggest jump in ratings since May 2005′s Ultimate Tournament of Champions (which featured Jennings and Rutter). It’s being reported that Monday night’s show posted an 8.8 rating and that spiked 9% on Tuesday to a 9.6 rating. All in all, Watson proved that machines are certainly getting smarter and more sophisticated. But at least we don’t have to expect world domination just yet; it thought Toronto was a U.S. city! Side note: How cool was it to watch Watson’s avatar “sweat” during the heated competition? When it was confident about a response green swirls swooped to the top of the display, and when it was unsure about one (or–gasp!–answered incorrectly) the swirls would change to a yellow hue and sink to the bottom. Watching the computer “think” was fun to watch.

IBM’s Watson supercomputer vs. humans in a game of Jeopardy

Posted in News,Technology,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on January 16th, 2011

On February 14, 15, and 16 two Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will face off against each other and a supercomputer named Watson.  Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the supercomputer is comprised of 10 racks full of IBM Power 750 servers, with 15 terabytes of RAM and 2,880 processors operating at a collective 80 teraflops.  To say this machine is powerful is a grand understatement.  With Watson, IBM’s goal was to “build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.”  And that it does.  As you can see the in the video above, Watson performed extremely well at last week’s practice round of Jeopardy before the February main event.  IBM has created a terrifyingly smart machine in Watson; not only does it simply answer questions but it also intuitively understands the questions being asked, buzzes in, and speaks in human-ish voice (not unlike 2001‘s Hal).  In essence, when a question is asked Watson uses algorithms (brain power?) backed up by vast databases of learned knowledge to formulate a response.  Watson is not controlled by outside forces (i.e. humans) and it is not connected to the Internet, so technically it’s not cheating.

During its development period engineers threw thousands of questions at it and so now they believe it’s ready for prime time. “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 behind 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.”

Or it will end up creating its own army of supercomputers and kill us all.  Wondering how Watson did at the completion of the practice round?  Watson: $4400. Jennings: $3400. Rutter: $1200.  Watch Watson dominate this February and prepare for J-Day.

[Via Engadget, here & here; IBM]