Saturday, January 15, 2011

IBM supercomputer Watson beats humans in Jeopardy

In May 1997, IBM's Deep Blue Supercomputer played a fascinating match with the reigning World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov. Overall, Deep Blue won 2 games, 3 draws, and one loss. (See IBM Deep Blue page here)

Chess is a very logical game with a large, but limited number of possible moves. The real challenge for computers is still naturally spoken language, with all it's subtle contextual meanings, puns, irony, and word plays. Now a team at IBM has taken on the challenge of natural language processing with the Watson project (See IBM Watson page here)

Watson is a supercomputer the size of ten refrigerators that is able to analyze natural spoken language and generate an answer in natural language. An IBM team of scientists spent four years building the Watson computer system that can rival a human in answering questions posed in natural language. The team decided to have Watson compete against human players in the popular TV show "Jeopardy" which is a good testing ground for it's language analysis capabilities. In a first machine vs man test round, Watson beat the two all-time best Jeopardy players Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. More rounds will take place next month. Read more here: IBM supercomputer wins first Jeopardy dust up - Computerworld

Despite the impressive progress of IBM's Watson, it will still take awhile until we can naturally talk to computers, as envisioned by Apple back in 1987:

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