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IBM computer to compete on 'Jeopardy!' with two of game show's best contestants

December 14, 2010 |  8:55 am

Jeopardy In what is sure to be a romantic Valentine’s Day date, two of the best "Jeopardy!" players in history are set to match wits with an IBM supercomputer named –- what else -– Watson.

Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson -– not the Sherlock Holmes' sidekick -– the English-only computer will attempt to decipher and answer questions without being connected to the Internet.

Watson will battle Ken Jennings, who won 74 games in a row –- the most consecutive victories ever -– and Brad Rutter, who scored the most money with more than $3 million.

But this competition, to be aired Feb. 14, won’t be quite the same as the one in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue computer (and its ability to calculate 200 moves per second) beat chess grandmaster and world champion Garry Kasparov.

Watson will have to attempt to pick up the subtle meanings and riddles often woven into Jeopardy questions, which will be fed to the machine through typed entries while host Alex Trebek reads them to the human contestants.

The computer will then sift through a database compiled by more than 20 IBM scientists that includes information about history, literature, pop culture, science and more from a range of sources.

In more than three years of testing, Watson had some trouble recognizing double meanings and sometimes confused fiction as fact.

Broadcast from IBM’s New York laboratory, the show will last three days and the winner will nab $1 million. If Watson comes out on top, IBM will donate the prize to charity. Jennings and Rutter will give away half if they win.

Here's a video from IBM and "Jeopardy!":   

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Jennings, left, and Rutter. Credit: Charles William Bush / "Jeopardy!"

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