All hail our new computer overlords

After beating Kasparov at chess with Deep Blue, IBM is back with Watson, an analytical marvel named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. This time around IBM set its sights on Jeopardy!, America’s Favorite Quiz show. Built by a team of IBM scientists the Watson project set out to build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language. Not wanting to make it too easy they opted for the Jeopardy format of questions. Both speed and accuracy play a major role in the game, however, the clues in the questions involve subtle meanings, irony, riddles and other complexities in which computers traditionally don’t excel.

To up the ante even more Watson would face off against two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on the show, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. With Ken winning 74 games in a row resulting in him taking over $2.5 million in prizes and Brad winning the highest cumulative amount ever, $3,255,102, by a single Jeopardy player. They are certainly worthy competitors for Watson.

Both Ken and Brad only had their 1400 grams of grey matter to battle Watson. Watson on the other hand consisting of ten server racks filled with a grand total of 2880 processors and 16 Terabyte of memory. IBM’s DeepQA software analysed the question after which Watson would start searching for an appropriate answer using Apaches Hadoop distributed file system, one of the systems that drive both Facebook & Twitter. Using this technology allows Watson to analyse over 4 terabyte of unstructured data almost instantaneously, after which it would answer the question using a text-to-speech system.

One of the drawbacks for Watson was that he cannot see or hear which resulted in him repeating a wrong answer. Also Watson seemed to get some of the easier questions wrong because of the way they were phrased.  In the end this didn’t stop Watson from crushed his opponents by scoring $77.147 versus their $24.000 and $21.600, netting Watson a cool million in prize money, which IBM donated to two charities.

Now Watson is done playing around he’ll be shipped to two Medical Centres where he will receive additional medical training before helping to diagnose patients. Watch out House, Watson is coming for you.

For those of you interested to see how Skynet Watson performed there are some clips to be found on YouTube:

Day 1:
part 1:
part 2:

Day 2:
part 1:
part 2:

Day 3:
part 1:
part 2:



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