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February 15, 2011

Computer versus Humans on Jeopardy Game Show

A computer from IBM called Watson took part as a contestant on the game show Jeopardy. Watson competed against the two top human Jeopardy champions of all time Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. After three days of competition Watson the computer came out as champion. Watson's total was $77,147 while Ken Jennings won $24,000 and Brad Rutter $21,600.

What is Watson?

Watson is an IBM computer named after the IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. It takes a really powerful processor as well as some smart software to be able to understand complex questions and answer them. It might sound simple at first, but getting a computer to compete on Jeopardy and win is a huge scientific achievement.

Does Watson keep the money?

Actually the grand prize for winning the tournament was $1,000,000. IBM is donating it to charity. Jennings won $300,000 for second place and Rutter $200,000 for third. Not too bad! They both donated half of their winnings to charity.

Watson had to go through qualifying for the show like any other contestant. The Jeopardy producers wanted to make sure that the computer was good enough to compete. It also took on some former champions for practice. Which gave the IBM team a chance to fine tune and verify Watson's abilities. Obviously Watson was a huge success.

What's next for Watson?

The technology used in Watson can be applied to a number of different areas. For example, it could be used to help answer questions on a customer support line or help doctor's figure out what could be wrong with patient.

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter were good sports being willing to take on a computer. Jennings had the longest win streak ever on Jeopardy and Rutter won the most money ever. Although, even in loosing, they pulled in a pretty good paycheck. At the end of the three games, Jennings acknowledged Watson's win by writing "I for one welcome our new computer overlords". A joke from the TV show The Simpsons.

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