I.B.M.'s Scarily Competent Jeopardy-Playing Computer
After I.B.M. built a computer that could beat Garry Kasparov at chess, the next challenge was obvious:
That's right, I.B.M. has been working on Watson, a Jeopardy!-playing computer, for the last three years. It could be ready to compete against former human champions in a real game of Jeopardy! as early as this fall.
What's remarkable about this is that if Watson does well, that will mean it can answer Jeopardy! questions, which are written in about as computer-unfriendly a manner as possible. And that gets us a step closer to machines that can make sense of everyday English. And that, of course, gets us a step closer to the wisecracking Johnny Five.
The New York Times has a long, fascinating feature on Watson. And it's worth a read. But they also have a trivia game set up where you can play against Watson in a mini game of Jeopardy! For now, you still have a shot at beating the computers. Enjoy it before they get too smart.
As it turns out, I was still humiliated by a robot (though in my defense there were some spelling errors that screwed me up and I thought we were racing to answer, which led to some bad guesses):
Other people in our office scored much better—some almost shut Watson out—which bodes well for humanity (and for GOOD).