IBM have developed a new computer system that is designed to answer questions that are posed in natural, conversational language rather than complex computer code. The computer, known as "Watson," while not connected to the Internet has digested thousands of books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, film scripts, news reports and more to acquire a broad base of knowledge.
So just what does IBM intend to do with Watson? Why put it on Jeopardy of course!
Watson will be going up against two former Jeopardy champions next month in a battle for $1 million dollars in prize money with the second place winner collecting $300,000 and third place runner up taking $200,000. If Watson wins IBM will donate the money to charity while the two former Jeopardy champs, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, have also both pledged to donate half their winnings.
Is their a point to putting a computer on a game show you wonder? According to IBM there is. David Ferrucci who is the leader of the Watson development project believes going on the long running Trebek-hosted game show will, "drive the technology in the right direction."
Ultimately it is hoped that computers like Watson, which consists of 10 racks of IBM servers, has 15 terabytes of RAM and runs on Linux, can aid humans in the speedier diagnosis of medical conditions or expediting the process of legal research.
The developers at IBM believe Jeopardy is a good approximation for the kind of real world situations they want Watson to be able to handle.
"It has all kinds of things," says Ferrucci. "The confidence aspect, don't answer if you don't think you're right. You have to do it really quickly."
Like all Jeopardy questions Watson has been taught to answer with a question, given a buzzer and will stand in front of a podium. In this case by proxy consisting of the IBM Smart Planet logo on an LCD screen that will flicker and fluctuate to represent its processing.
Watson will take on Rutter and Jennings over three days from February 14th through the 16th.