Watson is an artificially intelligent supercomputer that can answer questions posed in natural language. IBM’s principal investigator, David Ferruci, led the DeepQA research project to create Watson. Its demonstration on the “Jeopardy!” show was a monumental breakthrough for the artificial intelligence community. Watson is the first supercomputer to move beyond the limited constraints of human-computer interaction. In fact, Watson’s question-answering capability allows multiple industries to apply this technology for good use. Watson stands as a testament to the great depth of innovation behind it and continues to evolve to become one of greatest technological achievements in human history.
What is Watson?
Many have heard about the supercomputer that defeated two “Jeopardy!” champions. “What is Watson?” would appear on the blue screen of any “Jeopardy!” fan who knows about this faceless champion. Watson is one of the world’s most advanced question-answering machines: It understands questions in natural language and processes them the same way a human brain computes information. Watson does more than processes information, though: It responds with precise, factual answers. This makes it greatly different from search engines like Google and Bing, which merely point to a document with the right answer. Watson actually goes a step further and answers the question directly. Technologists refer to this form of artificial intelligence as the “holy grail” because it allows humans and computers to interact with each other more naturally than through typing keywords.
The Science Behind Watson
For years, software firms and university scientists produced question-answering systems. However, the majority of these systems fell short of answering elaborately phrased questions. In 1997, IBM engineered supercomputer Deep Blue that defeated grandmaster Garry Kasparov at chess. But while this monumental breakthrough stunned most of the artificial intelligence community, it did not produce technology that could be applied in business. In the past decade, question-answering systems have emerged to become the next step between human and computer interaction. Deep Blue could only play chess: Watson can understand the intended meaning behind a question and provide a correct answer. No other artificial intelligence system could decode allusive statements and connotations found in every sentence like Watson.
Watson has enormous speed and memory that allows it to process questions in natural language. It accesses the millions of documents inputted into its memory. Watson uses more than 100 algorithms at the same time to analyze a question in different ways. This allows it to generate hundreds of possible solutions. A percent of these algorithms rank these answers based on probability. If dozens of these algorithms working in different directions arrive at the same answer, then it will most likely answer correctly. Watson also uses algorithms that cross-check answers.
Watson Competes on “Jeopardy!”
In 2008, IBM representatives contacted “Jeopardy!” about the idea of having Watson compete against two of the show’s most successful contestants. After the program producers agreed, IBM expressed their concerns that the show’s writers would exploit Watson’s cognitive weaknesses, turning the competition into a Turing test. As a result, the producers agreed to use a third party to randomly pick the clues from ones previously written for other shows that were never broadcast. The “Jeopardy!” staff also expressed concerns over Watson’s ability to press the buzzer to answer the questions. The IBM staff planned to have Watson signal electronically, but the show’s staff wanted the artificial creation to physically push a button like human contestants. Further issues arose that almost led to the competition’s cancellation.
IBM built a mock set in a conference room in order to simulate a live game of “Jeopardy!” Human players competed against Watson in mock games: IBM ran about 100 test matches with Watson, winning 65 percent of them. To provide a visual representation of Watson, IBM gave the supercomputer an avatar to appear just above its spot on the game show. The game show recorded a practice match on January 13th, 2011, which resulted in Watson winning a 15-question round. After two successful matches, Watson went ahead to compete in a final round. The prizes for the final competition were $1 million for first place, $300,000 for second place, and $200,000 for third place. Watson earned first place by a landslide.
- IBM: What is Watson?: IBM explains the cognitive technology software that processes information more like a human than a computer.
- Fear Not, Humans: Watson the New Jeopardy! Champion Won’t Take Over the World Yet: The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) covers the three man-versus-machine matches between IBM artificial intelligence software Watson and two celebrated champions on “Jeopardy!”
- IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Crowned Jeopardy! King: The BBC covers the three-night marathon that crowned Watson, the cognitive supercomputer, the “Jeopardy!” king.
- In the Game: The Interface Between Watson and Jeopardy! (PDF): An extensive document explains the interface that allowed IBM’s Watson to play on “Jeopardy!”
- Can a Computer Become a Jeopardy! Champ?: National Public Radio (NPR) debates whether or not a supercomputer can defeat two of the best contenders on “Jeopardy!”
- What Is IBM’s Watson?: The New York Times explains how Watson operates to process and answer questions in the same manner that humans do.
- Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project: The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) presents a technical overview of the DeepQA project that resulted in the development of Watson.
- IBM’s Watson Jeopardy! Computer Shuts Down Humans in Final Game: IBM supercomputer Watson shuts down humans in the final game of “Jeopardy!” but answers wrong to one of the questions.
- IBM’s Watson Computer and the Future of Artificial Intelligence: An article shares how Watson operates and what it means for the future.
- Analysis of Watson’s Strategies for Playing Jeopardy! (PDF): An abstract paper analyzes the strategies implemented to allow Watson to play on “Jeopardy!”
- What is Watson?: The Advanced Computing Systems Association delivers a presentation covering the science behind Watson.
- Elementary? Question-Answering, IBM’s Watson,and the Jeopardy! Challenge (PDF): An extensive document covers the sub-areas of artificial intelligence found in Watson, natural language processing and question-answering.
- Watson, the Computer Jeopardy! Champion, and the Future of Artificial Intelligence: An article explains the goal behind Watson and the future of artificial intelligence.
- Watson Wins Jeopardy! Six Artificial Intelligence Milestones: National Geographic covers six artificial intelligence milestones, including the acclaimed “Jeopardy!” champion.
- Why Watson and Siri Are Not Real AI: Popular Mechanics argues what makes Watson and Siri different from traditional artificial intelligence creations.
- Managing Watson: IBM’s Jeopardy! Champion: The Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) explains the project management challenges posed to the IBM team before Watson could compete on “Jeopardy!”
- Watson Promises to Revolutionize the Way Humans and Computers Interact: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs explains how the cognitive technology behind Watson could help revolutionize the way humans and computers interact in the health care industry.
- The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World: Wired explains the three breakthroughs that humans have finally unleashed centered around artificial intelligence.
- IBM Unveils Plans for Watson Supercomputer: IBM unveils its plans for the Watson supercomputer across a wide variety of industrial sectors.
Content Writer at Vodien Internet Solutions
Val Soh is the lead writer at Vodien and is responsible for all the content that comes from Vodien. She loves the world of technology and marketing and enjoys catching up with the latest happenings in the field, sharing them in unique and entertaining pieces for her readers to enjoy.
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