IBM's Watson Supercomputer to Take on Humans in $1M Jeopardy Tournament

1 of 11

IBM's Watson Supercomputer to Take on Humans in $1M Jeopardy Tournament

By Fahmida Y Rashid

2 of 11

This is...Jeopardy!

The team at IBM Research and the producers for Jeopardy agreed that transporting Watson to Los Angeles, where the show is usually taped, was too risky. We didnt want to find out that Watson got -jostled or something, said Jeopardy executive producer Harry Friedman. It was far easier, instead, for Jeopardy to move its team, cameras, lights (ceiling) and other equipment to the Yorktown Heights Research Lab. IBM spent $1 million to build a replica of the set in its auditorium.

3 of 11

The Machine

Watson will be standing at the podium, just like any other player, by means of a screen displaying his avatar and a buzzer specially customized so that it can click in. The avatar is a stylized planet Earth with a halo of thought rays, and when confident of the answer, glows green. When not certain or processing the information, the avatar displays orange.

4 of 11

The Human Challengers

Former Jeopardy champions, Ken Jennings, with 74 wins under his belt, and Brad Rutter, with the most money earned, will be playing against Watson in a two-game tournament. Jennings, a former computer developer, said playing against a computer is exciting, almost like going up against a superhero. But he confidently said, Watson IS beatable. Rutter said he was surprised at how fast Waston was, but when he buzzes in first, he gets a rush. Woo! I beat Watson! he said.

5 of 11

Gentlemen, Pick Up Your Buzzer

To even the playing field somewhat, Watson doesnt get its clue digitally fed until the clue has hit human retinas, and it still has to buzz in when it gets the answer. During the Q&A, the players talked about how many players use the strategy of buzzing in before knowing the exact answer and then spending the remaining time frantically figuring it out. Watson wont be able to do that. Watson will be responding to answers in a HAL-like voice.

6 of 11

The Game

The game board is actually smaller than the original one in Los Angeles, according to Friedman, but other than that, its more or less the same. In the demonstration, the players went through 15 questions.

7 of 11

Does Watson Know?

During the demonstration, the audience could see the top three answers Watson found to answer the question, and the corresponding confidence level for each answer. Watson is designed to answer the question when its confident it knows the answer.

8 of 11

Not Always the Fastest

Jeopardy is not just about knowledge; its about speed, too. In this question, Watson wasnt sure of the answer, and Jennings buzzed in. On a different question, Watson was 98 percent confident, but Rutter was faster on the buzzer.

9 of 11

Meet Watson's Dad

David Ferrucci was the principal investigator of the Watson project. Initially, Watson was terrible at answering questions, he said. When asked whether Watson had any strengths or weaknesses on topics and categories (Jennings was curious about that, too). Ferrucci was very diplomatic and said it really depended on how the clue was phrased, since an obscure word play could mean Watson might not be able to answer something he knew very well.

10 of 11

Watson's Brain

Watson is powered by 10 racks of POWER 750 servers running Linux, containing 15 terabytes of RAM and 2,880 processor cores operating at 80 teraflops. The avatar is projected by a series of lights on the floor. The data is stored within an IBMs DB2 relational database. Watsons open-source credits include Eclipse and Apaches Hadoop.

11 of 11

Final Score

After 15 questions, Watson was ahead, $4,400, Jennings at $3,400, and Rutter at $1,200 at the end of the practice round. Jeopardys television audience will get to view the full two-day tournament that will be broadcast over three days in February to learn if Watson can beat the two greatest champions in the game shows history to take the $1 million top prize.

Top White Papers and Webcasts