Tuesday, April 28, 2009

IBM Computer Program To Take On 'Jeopardy!'

Techdirt and Slashdot have reported on IBM's new Watson project designed to take on Jeopardy

The world of supercomputing and artificial intelligence has always been fascinated with games like chess, Go and poker -- where evaluating strategies for winning could be approached using vast computational resources. Another historical challenge for AI projects is the classic Turing Test, which requires an understanding of human communication in order to pass the test. So it's interesting to see IBM starting a project called Watson (named after IBM's founder, not Sherlock's assistant) to create a computer to compete on Jeopardy! against human contestants -- because doing so combines the goals of natural language processing and strategic game planning.

This may just be a PR move following in the footsteps of Deep Blue, but I think it's pretty cool (and not just because I like watching Jeopardy :) )


  1. Parsing the questions in natural language, which is the goal here, is however very much *not* trivial. Doubly so since the clues and questions in a Jeopardy! game are usually at least somewhat obfuscated, contain puns, double entendres, etc...

  2. I would think the challenge would lie in recognizing the question for what it is. E.g. "This playwright authored Hamlet" could confuse a computer - is it talking about Hamlet the play or literally a small town? Easy if you're human, not so easy if you're a computer. (From TFA: "The system must be able to deal with analogies, puns, double entendres and relationships like size and location, all at lightning speed.") I would imagine that the rhyming categories would be especially difficult.