Jeopardy: The IBM Challenge

For the first time ever on Jeopardy, a machine (named Watson) is competing against human opponents… and they aren’t just any humans, either. Ken Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive Jeopardy wins. Watson’s other opponent, Brad Rutter, has won more money than anyone else in Jeopardy’s history (over $3.2 million dollars).

Jeopardy’s IBM Challenge started last night and will continue tonight and tomorrow night. My husband and I eagerly watched last night’s episode to see how Watson would fare. He did a decent job and ended the night tied with Brad Rutter at $5000 apiece. Ken Jennings had $2000. Watson, however, made a humorous mistake last night when he buzzed in with “the 1920’s” after Ken Jennings had also just incorrectly answered ” the 20’s.” Whoops! 😛

What surprised me was that Watson is not connected to the Internet, so I wonder what Watson’s information database is like. I think it would be interesting to see what he can do with access to the Internet. Also, Watson is currently given the clues in text form. I don’t know if Watson gets the clues immediately, only after Trebek has finished reading them, or if there is some other sort of delay before Watson gets the clue. If Watson gets them immediately, it obviously gives the machine an advantage, because it can begin searching for an answer before the human contestants understand the clue. Human players, on the other hand, would have an advantage over the machine if they are able to see and start thinking about the clues before the machine gets them. It seems like a good solution would be to make Watson able to hear and interpret the clues audibly as the clues are being read and then be given the clues in text form as the clue is being read or after the clue has finished being read. On the other hand, I am sure that any good Jeopardy player must speed read through the clue, rather than listen to Trebek read it. *Shrugs*

Anyway, it was definitely fun to watch last night’s episode and I look forward to watching the two remaining episodes of man vs. machine. 🙂 As someone mentioned on Twitter last night, though, “IBM missed a HUGE comedic opportunity by not programming Watson to sound like Sean Connery.” 😛

EDIT: I found a PBS NOVA program on Watson and I would recommend watching it if you have an hour of free time (I :heart: PBS). Apparently, Watson’s information database consists of 10 million documents (mostly downloaded from the Internet), including encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others), dictionaries, thesauruses, IMDB, The New York Times, The Bible, etc. Watson does not have access to his opponents’ incorrect answers, which is why he repeated Ken Jennings’s response (he does, however, get to hear the correct answers). And, to answer my question from above, Watson gets the clues as soon as they show up on the board.

EDIT 2: Haha, someone suggested a final Jeopardy question of: “What word is displayed in the following captcha?” Funny stuff.