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IBM's Watson Question Answering System Challenges Humans at "Jeopardy!"


On April 27, 2009 IBM announced that its Watson Question Answering (QA) System will challenge humans in the television quiz show Jeopardy!



"IBM is working to build a computing system that can understand and answer complex questions with enough precision and speed to compete against some of the best Jeopardy! contestants out there.

"This challenge is much more than a game. Jeopardy! demands knowledge of a broad range of topics including history, literature, politics, film, pop culture and science. What's more, Jeopardy! clues involve irony, riddles, analyzing subtle meaning and other complexities at which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. This, along with the speed at which contestants have to answer, makes Jeopardy! an enormous challenge for computing systems. Code-named "Watson" after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the IBM computing system is designed to rival the human mind's ability to understand the actual meaning behind words, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content, and ultimately, demonstrate confidence to deliver precise final answers.

"Known as a Question Answering (QA) system among computer scientists, Watson has been under development for more than three years. According to Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the project team, 'The confidence processing ability is key to winning at Jeopardy! and is critical to implementing useful business applications of Question Answering.

"Watson will also incorporate massively parallel analytical capabilities and, just like human competitors, Watson will not be connected to the Internet, or have any other outside assistance.  

"If we can teach a computer to play Jeopardy!, what could it mean for science, finance, healthcare and business? By drastically advancing the field of automatic question answering, the Watson project's ultimate success will be measured not by daily doubles, but by what it means for society" (, accessed 06-16-2010).

On June 16, 2010 The New York Times Magazine published a long article by Clive Thompson on IBM's Watson's challenge of humans in Jeopardy! entitled, in the question response language of Jeopardy!, "What is I.B.M.'s Watson?."

♦ In December 2013 answers to frequently asked questions concerning Watson and Jeopardy! were available from IBM's website at this link.

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