Monday, April 27, 2009

IBM Challenges Jeopardy Contestants

First it was Gary Kasparov, now Alex Trebek. IBM's newest game-playing super computer (named Watson) is set to compete against human contestants in the game show Jeopardy. These occasional publicity stunts are a great way to bring awareness to the huge strides in the field of artificial intelligence.

Compared to chess (in which IBM's Deep Blue defeated Kasparov), Jeopardy is a much different challenge and will tax Watson's grasp on the nuances of the English language. Thus far Watson's performance has been mixed:

For example, given the statement, “Bordered by Syria and Israel, this small country is only 135 miles long and 35 miles wide,” Watson beat its human competitors by quickly answering, “What is Lebanon?”

Moments later, however, the program stumbled when it decided it had high confidence that a “sheet” was a fruit.

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