Soon, ‘Machine VS Man’ on quiz show Jeopardy

April 28th, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by ANI  

London, April 28 (ANI): In a head to head challenge of man versus machine, IBM is all set to pit a supercomputer code-named ‘Watson’ against human contestants in the famed trivia quiz show Jeopardy.

According to a report by BBC News, ‘Watson’ is a new question-answering system based on natural language.

“The aim is to get Watson to think and interact in human terms,” said Dr David Ferrucci, an IBM artificial intelligence researcher and team leader on the project.

“It will try to understand a users question and intent and understand it at a rudimentary level and provide and accurate and confident answer,” he added.

For the last two years, scientists have been working on perfecting the system that will drive Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J Watson Snr.

“The most challenging aspect of this is that Watson has to know what it knows with utmost confidence,” said Ferrucci.

“Otherwise if it buzzes in and gets the answer wrong that is bad on Jeopardy because you lose money and lose the game,” he added.

On the show, Watson would be looking to solve an open-ended problem that requires an entirely new approach.

To win on the show, contestants need a good knowledge across a range of topics and the ability to quickly analyse subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities that humans excel at but computers do not.

The rules of the game will be slightly modified for this battle.

Watson will be given the questions as electronic text while the human contestants will both see the text and hear it spoken by the show’s host Alex Trebek.

The computer will answer in a synthesized voice and choose follow up questions.

For the taping of the show, Watson will not be hooked up to the Internet, but will only be able to draw from what it has “read”, or processed and indexed, before the show.

“It requires critical thinking. It requires a whole lot more than knowledge alone,” said Jeopardy’s executive producer Harry Friedman.

IBM and the show’s producers are hoping grand champion Ken Jennings to take part. He won Jeopardy 74 consecutive times and collected 2.52 million dollars (1.71 mln pounds) in 2004.

“Ken is the best and no-one gets close to his achievement. This is just a great test for Watson,” said Dr Ferrucci.

According to John Kelly, IBM’s director of research, “This represents a new level of communications between computers and human beings.” (ANI)

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