Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeopardy's IBM Challenge Day 1 - Watson Impresses!

We've reached the end of Day One, Ken Jennings (winningest player with a mindblowing 74-game streak) trailing with $2,000 at the end of Single Jeopardy and Brad Rutter (Jeopardy's biggest money winner at $3.25 million) tied with IBM's Watson at $5,000.

So far, Watson has been very impressive.  First off, when it is "sure" of an answer (an onscreen indicator shows us Watson's certainty percentage on the top three answers, and whether the first one exceeds its "buzz barrier", indicating confidence to buzz in), Watson seems to smoke the humans on the buzzer more often than not.  Ken, who must be a master of the buzzer, seems to be frustrated by this. 

Watson's weaknesses seem to be in situations where it cannot parse the question, needs to formulate a complex answer and it's lack of the ability to follow the gameplay.  In one response, Watson gave the same wrong response that a human player already had.  In another, in response to an answer about an Olympian with an anatomical oddity, the correct question was "What is missing a leg?", while Watson came up with "What is a leg?".  Close, but no cigar. 

With Double Jeopary and Final Jeopardy still to come, humanity still has a solid chance, but should Watson pull it out, let me be the first to welcome our new computer quiz show overlords.

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