Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jeopardy! The IBM Challenge

Jeopardy! vs IBMs Watson computer
IBMs Watson Avatar

Everyone lives life through a filter, a delusion. It's a necessary buffer that once protected us from the thought that yes indeed, that tiger, that hyena, that other clan member, is going to kill and eat us; or, just kill us. Night terrors were once reality; sitting awake at night, wondering what those eyes in the dark are going to do is beyond terror to reality.

Thinking we are invincible, can fly, are invisible, or are protected by an all seeing, all powerful dude in a beard, certainly passes the time, and allows us to survive without murderous stomach ulcers or having a stroke, through one more night as a food source.

We have a new delusion. One that will be computer enhanced. It's called, Watson, 

For three days this week, I watched IBM's Watson advanced computer play against two of the best Jeopardy! players. Pretty cool. Both as a media stunt and to show off its abilities, IBM began talking two years ago to Jeopardy producers about doing a show, not unlike that of IBMs Big Blue computer playing (and winning) a chess game against Gary Kasparov back in 1989.

Watson beat out two humans and won the $1 million prize on the TV game show. The money won on Jeopardy! will go to charity.

This is one of those things that some day in the future, people may well talk about this three episode day shows of Watson against two of Jeopardy's best players from years past. The longest running player and the highest dollar winning player.

Watson had some quirky moments, like on Final Jeopardy, losing the answer, but winning by having the most monetary win for the day and only betting $947. What the formula is to have allowed it to judge that move is unknown but it was some great showmanship.

After competing against the two greatest Jeopardy! champions of all time, the technology behind Watson will now be applied to some of the world’s most enticing challenges.

“We’re just so excited about all the things we can do with this.” David Ferrucci, Watson Principal Investigator, IBM Research.

Preparing Watson for the Jeopardy! stage posed a unique challenge to the team: how to represent a system of 90 servers and hundreds of custom algorithms for the viewing public. The result? A dynamic visual avatar based on the smarter planet icon. A speaking voice that clearly pronounces a vast vocabulary. And an answer panel that reveals the system’s top responses and confidence levels. Watch the video to find out more about each of these elements.

Operating on a single CPU, it could take Watson two hours to answer a single question. A typical Jeopardy!contestant can accomplish this feat in less than three seconds. For Watson to rival the speed of its human competitors in delivering a single, precise answer to a question requires custom algorithms, terabytes of storage and thousands of POWER7 computing cores working in a massively parallel system.
“There’s a pattern here. It’s random, chaotic but it’s all based on data generated by Watson as it plays the game.” Joshua Davis, Digital Artist and Watson Avatar Collaborator

Watson was optimized to tackle a specific challenge: competing against the world's best Jeopardy! contestants. Beyond Jeopardy!, the IBM team is working to deploy this technology across industries such as healthcare, finance and customer service.

Now that Watson has won, it will be helping to analyze medical records for two hospitals.

One more thing to point out that the Future, is now.

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