Can IBM’s Watson Beat Humans in a Game of Jeopardy?

In 1997, IBM created a computer named Deep Blue, and set up a chess match with the then world champion Garry Kasparov. After a mistake by Kasparov in the opening of the sixth game, Deep Blue became the first computer to ever beat a chess grand master.

The latest computer to emerge from IBM is nicknamed Watson, and boasts the ability to do more than simply find related data: it aims to answer questions posed in every day speech. And what better platform to test Watson’s skills than the game show Jeopardy!?

With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem — and aims to prove as much on national TV. The producers of “Jeopardy!” have agreed to pit Watson against some of the game’s best former players as early as this fall. To test Watson’s capabilities against actual humans, I.B.M.’s scientists began holding live matches last winter. They mocked up a conference room to resemble the actual “Jeopardy!” set, including buzzers and stations for the human contestants, brought in former contestants from the show and even hired a host for the occasion.

Though the date hasn’t been set yet for the official show, this will definitely be something I tune in to watch. In addition to the NYTimes article, make sure to check out IBM’s FAQ about Watson (which is equally interesting).

If you can’t wait for the official match and think you could give Watson a run for its (his?) money, try your hand at the Watson Trivia Challenge.

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