Computer, which tech giant calls "profound advance" in artificial intelligence, beats two former game show champs
The clue: It’s the size of 10 refrigerators, has access to the equivalent of 200 million pages of information and knows how to answer in the form of a question.
The correct response: “What is the computer IBM developed to become a ‘Jeopardy!’ whiz?”
Watson, which IBM claims as a profound advance in artificial intelligence, edged out game-show champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Thursday in its first public test, a short practice round ahead of a million-dollar tournament that will be televised next month.
Later, the human contestants made jokes about the “Terminator” movies and robots from the future. Indeed, four questions into the round you had to wonder if the rise of the machines was already upon us — in a trivial sense at least.
Watson tore through a category about female archaeologists, repeatedly activating a mechanical button before either Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter could buzz in, then nailing the questions: “What is Jericho?” “What is Crete?”
Its gentle male voice even scored a laugh when it said, “Let’s finish ‘Chicks Dig Me.’”
Jennings, who won a record 74 consecutive “Jeopardy!” games in 2004-05, then salvaged the category, winning $1,000 by identifying the prehistoric human skeleton Dorothy Garrod found in Israel: “What is Neanderthal?”
He and Rutter, who won a record of nearly $3.3 million in prize money, had more success on questions about children’s books and the initials “M.C.,” though Watson knew about “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and that it was Maurice Chevalier who sang “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” in the film “Gigi.” The computer pulled in $4,400 in the practice round, compared with $3,400 for Jennings and $1,200 for Rutter.
Watson is powered by 10 racks of IBM servers running the Linux operating system. It’s not connected to the Internet but has digested encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, news, movie scripts and more.
The system is the result of four years of work by IBM researchers around the globe, and although it was designed to compete on “Jeopardy!” the technology has applications well beyond the game, said John Kelly III, IBM director of research. He said the technology could help doctors sift through massive amounts of information to draw conclusions for patient care, and could aid professionals in a wide array of other fields.
“What Watson does and has demonstrated is the ability to advance the field of artificial intelligence by miles,” he said.
Watson, named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is reminiscent of IBM’s famous Deep Blue computer, which defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But while chess is well-defined and mathematical, “Jeopardy!” presents a more open-ended challenge involving troves of information and complexities of human language that would confound a normal computer.
“Language is ambiguous; it’s contextual; it’s implicit,” said IBM scientist David Ferrucci, a leader of the Watson team. Sorting out the context — especially in a game show filled with hints and jokes — is an enormous job for the computer, which also must analyze how certain it is of an answer and whether it should risk a guess, he said.
The massive computer was not behind its podium between Jennings and Rutter; instead it was represented by an IBM Smart Planet icon on an LCD screen.
The practice round was played on a stage at an IBM research center in Yorktown Heights, 38 miles north of Manhattan and across the country from the game show’s home in Culver City, Calif. A real contest among the three, to be televised Feb. 14-16, will be played at IBM on Friday.
The winner of the televised match will be awarded $1 million. Second place gets $300,000, third place $200,000. IBM, which has headquarters in Armonk, said it would give its winnings to charity while Jennings and Rutter said they would give away half theirs.
In a question-and-answer session with reporters after the practice round, Rutter and Jennings made joking reference to the jump in technology Watson represents.
“When Watson’s progeny comes back to kill me from the future,” Rutter said, “I have my escape route planned just in case.”
Jennings said someone suggested his challenge was like the legend of John Henry, the 19th-century laborer who beat a steam drill in a contest but died in the effort. Jennings prefers a comparison to “Terminator,” where the hero was a little more resilient.
“I had a friend tell me, ‘Remember John Henry, the steel-drivin’ man.’ And I was like … ‘Remember John Connor!’” Jennings said. “We’re gonna take this guy out!”
Associated Press writer Leon Drouin-Keith in New York City contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11