IBM’s “Watson” Computing System to Challenge All-Time Greatest Jeopardy! Champions

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An IBM computing system named "Watson" will compete on Jeopardy! against the television game show's two most successful contestants. The first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition will air on February 14, 15 and 16, 2011, with two matches being played over three consecutive days.

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The Jeopardy! format provides a fitting challenge because the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not.

The Watson software is powered by an IBM POWER7 server that has been optimized to handle the massive number of tasks that Watson must perform at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and deliver correct responses to the game's clues. The system running Linux also incorporates a number of optimized technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time.

Competing against Watson will be Ken Jennings, who broke the record for the most consecutive games played by winning 74 games in a row during the 2004-2005 season, and Brad Rutter, who won the highest cumulative amount ever by a single Jeopardy! player, earning $3,255,102.

"After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response," said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson. "Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson's breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives."

Highlights of sparring matches in preparation for the television shows can be viewed and tracked over the next few weeks here.