Yes, IBM’s supercomputer Watson creamed both the famous 74-day champ Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the all-time highest money champ in a very special Jeopardy edition. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t moments during the show that the IBM research team involved in the Watson project wasn’t sweating Watson’s answers.
In fact, one of the final Jeopardy clues during the 3-day-long session read, “Its largest airport is named for a World War II Hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle” in the category of “U.S. Cities” and each of the human contestants answered “What is Chicago?” while Watson answered “What is Toronto?????” IBM rsearchers hung their heads and grinned.
Even though it seems funny to most people, somewhere deep in Watson’s programming, Watson had deduced that this was the best answer to the clue, even though Watson was not very sure at all of its answer (and IBM reminds us that there are many U.S. cities actually named Toronto).
IBM also explained part of the reason for the error is because Watson was trained to “learn” to downplay the significance of category names and titles; to know that category titles only weakly suggest a real answer.
When Watson defeated the human contestants, some of the IBM research team even started to cry — finally, their hard work had paid off. In the end, Watson’s final score was $41,413. Jennings placed second with $19,200, and Rutter placed third with $11,200.
IBM has created a supercomputer that can process human language, but it is still a work in progress.
Computers may not be able to feel human emotion or detect sarcasm/inflection of voice that well, but programmers at IBM know that they can at least build supercomputers to succeed over a trained human mind at logical thinking and reasoning, as we have seen in this Jeopardy challenge. And now they will be useful in more than just Jeopardy gameshows.
Looking toward the future, IBM strives to apply the Watson technology to healthcare, and more specifically to medicine. IBM hopes to use Watson to take patient information and apply logical programmed analysis to diagnose and come up with the best treatments and outcomes within mere seconds.
It is estimated that already one out of two doctors in the U.S. use software from a company called Nuance Communications to apply and help make sense of patient information via the spoken word and turn it into data and text outcomes. IBM now hopes for Watson to be able to revolutionize this field even more by applying ground-breaking technology that is accurate enough to process a database of every medical resource available and choose the best outcomes. Stay tuned to IBM for answers.
The $1 million winnings from this special Jeopardy challenge were donated by IBM to a children’s World Vision charity.