IBM’s Israel lab to help challenge Jeopardy winners – live

Known as the Watson Project after IBM’s founder Thomas J. Watson, it is readying itself to play Jeopardy live against two of the show’s champions.

January 5, 2011 03:03
1 minute read.

Jeopardy 311. (photo credit: IBM Israel/Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)


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Move over Hal, Deep Blue and Jonny 5 – there’s a new computer in town.

Known as the Watson Project after IBM’s founder Thomas J. Watson, it is readying itself to play Jeopardy live against two of the show’s champions. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

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Scheduled to air on February 14-16, Watson was designed by IBM scientists to be able to answer any question posed in natural language.

Jeopardy was deemed the best format to challenge Watson because the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not, IBM said.

Jennings and Rutter are both multi-million dollar winners on the long running game show.

Watson has been developed over the last four years by IBM labs around the world, including the Haifa one. According to researchers David Carmel and Dafna Sheinwald, who contributed to the worldwide effort in developing Watson and lead the project in Israel, the Jeopardy project is a big challenge. It represents the need for very broad knowledge where each one of the hints given can include information that is either relevant or completely irrelevant when it comes to searching for the final answer.

Human beings are capable of instantly telling the difference between pertinent and superfluous information when searching for the end result –but a computer can’t make that distinction. The machines must weigh all the parameters in an equal manner in order to understand, the two said in a statement.

Watson has spent the fall practicing against Jeopardy Tournament of Champions Winners and has also passed the standard test given to all potential contestants to qualify for the show.

While having Watson play Jeopardy is a good way to refine its Deep Question and Answer programming, it has potential real world applications as well.

“Take a call center for instance. Watson could theoretically replace humans and answer every question correctly based on its vast databases,” IBM Research Chief Technology Officer Paul Bloom told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Other applications could include diagnosing patients, providing information to tourists and more.

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