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Computer Dominates Jeopardy! Champions
February 17, 2011

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Watson crushed the competition on the TV show Jeopardy!

Watson, of course, is an IBM computer, named after former IBM president Thomas Watson, and designed to be a vast improvement over Deep Blue, the chess-playing supercomputer that checkmated world titleholder Garry Kasparov way back in 1997. Programmers filled Watson will all sorts of trivia knowledge and then put it into the hands of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Competing against Watson were Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the former the winningest champion in terms of money and the latter the guy who won 74 games in a row.

It was no contest: The computer won handily, racking up an impressive total of $77,147. Jennings was a distant second, with winnings of $24,000; and Rutter had $21,600.

Time and again, the computer was the first to click in, simulating a human player's punching a button on a handheld control. (The first person to click in gets a shot at answering the question; only if that first player is wrong do the other players get another chance to click in and answer.)

Watson was designed to show computers' advances in linguistic and analytical abilities. It easily mastered the TV quiz show's requirement that answers be in the form of a question but also proved its human-like fallibility in getting some questions wrong.

Jennings had this to say: “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

IBM won the grand prize of $1 million and will give it to charity, along with the $77,147.

See earlier story for more about the supersmart computer.



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