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'Jeopardy!' challenge, Day 2: Watson annihilates weak humans

Watson Those "Jeopardy!" champs just got pwned: On Tuesday night's episode of the greatest man-versus-machine showdown in recent history, IBM super-computer Watson ended up with $35,734, trumping all-star champs Brad Rutter ($10,400) and Ken Jennings ($4,800).

From the very beginning, Watson tore off on a winning streak, beating the competition to the buzzer 24 out of 30 times, answering nearly every question correctly (it only stumbled on an art history question that Jennings and Rutter also missed) and even winning two Daily Doubles.

Its only massive blunder came during the Final Jeopardy question: "Its largest airport is named for a WWII hero. Its second largest for a WWII battle." The answer was Chicago, which Jennings and Rutter both knew. Watson chose "What is Toronto???" its extra question marks revealing an almost charming lack of confidence. (Poor Watson must've had trouble finding Toronto on a map of American cities.) But having only wagered less than $1,000, it still came out more than $25,000 ahead of Rutter. "Oh, you little sneak!" exclaimed host Alex Trebek.

Crafty, that little super-computer. On Wednesday, it will get its final chance to show if it's got enough mega-mind to school us all. We wonder what Watson would do with all that money. Maybe it could buy itself a Ms. Watson to cheer it on.

-- Melissa Maerz

Photo: Ken Jennings, Watson and Brad Rutter on "Jeopardy!" Credit: Carol Kaelson / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (26)

Resistance is futile. You will be trivialized.

@Melissa Maertz - Toronto is an "American" city, America consists of North and South America. Toronto (Canada) is not a United States city. Big difference. I don't recall the heading of the category, and cannot seem to find out.

I'm amazed and impressed with Watson's agility of "thought" processes. Now I'd really be impressed if IBM can shrink his hardware down to the size of a human brain.

Regarding previous posting (if it makes it up onto the site).

Found that the category was US Cities. Not sure if it said "US" or "U.S.". "U.S." being the proper way, seems like "US" was not picked up as "U.S." by Watson.

Very interesting.

@ $6-7 Billion USD, I doubt he could afford a Ms. Watson...

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

But would Watson think of a Mrs Watson? Interesting.

I think the computer had an unfair advantage with the electronic buzzing. These guys had the answers but couldnt buzz in fast as a machine.

Lazy reporting masquerading as an attempt to be cute. As published in stories on this subject by several sources, any prize money Watson wins will be donated to charity.

The category in which Watson made a mistake was "U.S. Cities". Toronto is a North American city, but not a U.S. city.

From what I saw in Day 1, Watson's no genius. It's just got an amazingly, almost inhumanly, fast finger on the button. Winning that race has nothing to do with intelligence, since most accomplished Jeopardy champions can fill in the answer after pushing the button on faith. As long as Watson reached its confidence threshold, it had no apparent hesitation or lag. I'm assuming that Watson isn't getting the questions in readable text and able to trigger its button at electronic speeds: That would be too obvious an advantage not to have been anticipated, but Watson's perfect comprehension of the questions (even when it missed the answer) suggests it had a communication advantage. I'd like to see an optical character or audio recognition interface to see what Watson would do in a more realistic setting.

If the opportunity to respond had been more equally shared, as one would expect in a fair competition, the result would probably still favor Watson, but not by much. It was interesting to watch the human champions show the obvious signs of discomfort and uncertainty that they used to induce in their own human opponents. If they could overcome that, the competition would probably be close to a dead heat.

It's NOT a supercomputer! It's a cluster of IBM Power 7 servers. Power 7 is used by many large businesses

Too bad it isn't a measure of anything but the ability to "push the button" faster than the humans. There was no doubt that these men knew all the answers given by Watson. To make it fair, Watson should have to have a human "pushing the button" for it, thereby leveling the playing field and making this a real contest. Then we'd see a true competition. Also, it was apparent that Watson had trouble with "tricky" clues, which the humans computed instantly.

Watson is a joke. 1st of all this could be a fake and if not, of course a computer will beat a person in a situation like this having been programmed by people (many people). What a waste of Jeopardy air time. Not the least bit entertaining. These people are going in the wrong direction. Get back to basics. That's what makes the show good ! And stop using celebs in this show. Another waste of time.

I doubt if anyone watching this Jeapordy farce believes that Ken & Brad don't know the answers to the questions that Watson has answered. So the contest is not to determine who knows the answers, but rather, who can buzz in faster.

This isn't really a test of how much smarter a computer is than two Jeopardy champs. There is no way a human can compete with the response time of a machine. We know Ken and Brad can score a lot more than they have in the past two days. We have seen them do it on countless occasions. They just can't ring in faster than a machine. Nobody could.

Did anyone else cry foul when the computer answered "Toronto" when "U. S. Cities" was the category? Regardless of the question, there's no way the computer would have done that. Conclusion: human interference. FOUL!!!

I think there should be mention of the fact that the computer is "texted" the answers. So in theory, it's possible that the computer is actually receiving the answers before Alex is finished reading. This would allow the computer to buzz in before either of the human competitors, thus giving it a huge advantage. Especially since the computer has the ability to search for the question while Alex is still reading the answer. As noted, the computer did make a major blunder at the end, noting "Toronto" as his question for the category of US Cities.

Why can t IBM stop wasteing money and lets all help the unborn Children !!!

Watson seems to have a slight edge in that he doesn't wait until the whole question has been read before he starts processing. The humans can't buzz in ahead of him. Also, the wording of clues does not seem typical of most Jeopardy shows--the clues are longer than usual and there aren't any of those tricky before and after categories, or video clues.

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