IBM’s Watson takes on Jeopardy Champions

Posted by: TomS on February 6, 2011 @ 11:58 am

You may have seen a few commercials for it recently, but next week, from Feb. 14- Feb. 16, Jeopardy! will be airing a face-off pitting all-time greats Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against a research computer built by IBM called Watson.  I make no claim to be an expert, but from some brief exposure in college, I have a general feel for how hard it is for computers to perform natural language processing just to understand the human language.  IBM is taking this one step farther by pairing advanced language processing with search algorithms to try and create the ultimate Jeopardy! champion.  From some of the videos I’ve seen online, it’s pretty impressive, and the showdown next week should be fairly entertaining.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article giving a very simple explanation of how Watson actually works, and the forthcoming book will likely provide even more details on the story of Watson.  I’ll be tuning into Jeopardy! next week to see how things go.  My personal prediction is that Brad Rutter will take the win, but both Ken and Watson will put in good showings.  Watson’s Achilles heel will likely be a few botched categories and questions that put him in hole, but its exciting to see how much progress IBM has made with technologies like these by taking up the IBM Jeopardy! challenge.

A practice round of Watson playing is available on YouTube and embedded below.