IBM's 'Jeopardy!' match more than game playing

Watson, IBM's "Jeopardy!" playing computer, is pushing analytics to new levels and has a future beyond TV games shows.

The battle between man and machine opens a new chapter on Monday when an IBM computer named Watson takes on two "Jeopardy!" champions in a test of speed and trivia.

For the developers of Watson, named for the founder of the 100-year-old company, the "Jeopardy!" game is the culmination of a four-year project that had plenty of naysayers when it started.

The early knocks were that a computer could not understand the nuances of language such as puns, sarcasm and wordplay fast enough to match the human brain.


How did Watson fare on Day 1 of Jeopardy!

Other related story

IBM's Watson vs the human brain


Now many of those in the computer science world who said it couldn’t be done are now hailing Watson as a technological marvel.

But for IBM, Watson and the innovation behind it is much more than just playing a syndicated game show, said Dave McQueeney, vice president of IBM Research.

The company, which was founded in 1911 by Thomas J. Watson, hopes the success of Watson will drive more interest in computer science as a career.

“There is the potential to wake up a lot of young kids and reinvigorate interest in these technical fields,” McQueeney said.

Second, and probably most applicable to the government market, Watson will usher in a new era of analytics tools, he said.

Watson is powered by 10 racks of IBM Power 750 servers, running Linux. It uses 15 terabytes of RAM and 2,880 processor cores.

To prepare for "Jeopardy!", it has been loaded with a huge amount of information about books, movies, history, plays, music, current events, and the list goes on.

For each question, Watson evaluates information from about 200 million pages of content, or 1 million books, McQueeney said.

And it has to do it in 3 seconds.

To achieve that speed, Watson runs thousands of processes at once, using hundreds algorithms and Natural Language Processing and Statistical Machine Learning technologies. It also relies on Unstructured Information Management Architecture.

Unlike Watson’s chess playing cousin Deep Blue, Watson is built using technology that is commercially available today, McQueeney said.

Within a few years, Watson-like computers could be affordable for government agencies that need to analyze vast amounts of data, he said.

“There are these classes of problems where people want to reason over very large collections of data and pose questions,” McQueeney said.

Uses in government range from health care analytics to looking for patterns in eligibility decisions to being a tool for streamlining processes. 

“It really is designed to collaborate with people,” he said.

To play "Jeopardy!", Watson breaks down the clue looking at things such as grammar, context and relationships and generates hundreds of possible interpretations. It then runs those against its databases and builds an evidence profile to determine what are the most likely correct answers. Each answer has a confidence level.

Viewers watching the "Jeopardy!" match will see the top three answers and their confidence levels.

For some questions, one answer will have a high confidence level. This is when Watson is most likely to buzz in. For other questions, none of the answers will have a high confidence level and Watson will not buzz in.

“That’s the interesting thing,” McQueeney said. “The machine knows when it doesn’t know the answer.”

In a real world application, this type of computing makes Watson a collaboration tool for humans who want to work with large sets of data. For example, in the medical field, Watson would not generate the diagnosis, McQueeney said.

“The machine’s performance and the human’s performance would amplify each other,” he said. “The human understands the subtly, the depth and the reasoning. The machine then brings a tremendous breadth of analysis but it understands something of the human reasoning.”

The doctor would pose a question and include the information such as medical history. The machine would come back with possible interpretations. The doctor would prune those and do more analysis and come back with possible answers and the confidence level for each answer.

The confidence level would include links to the data such as medical journals and other reports that the doctor could consult before making a diagnosis.

“There are so many things that people want to get out of these huge stores of data,” McQueeney said. “They know the reasoning, but they haven’t had the tools to handle all the data. That’s what Watson does.”

The "Jeopardy!" showdown between Watson and past  champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will air Feb. 14, 15 and 16, in a tournament of champions format. Two matches will be played over three days.

Any of Watson’s winnings will be donated to charity. Jennings and Rutter have agreed to donate half of their winnings to charity as well.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.