We know it's cliché, but really, what will they think up next? Just last month, researchers at IBM developed a supercomputer that could track some of the oldest English words to ever be uttered, and now another powerful machine will be tasked with taking on some of the quickest minds this planet has to offer... on one of America's most adored game shows.
Yep, sometime in the future an IBM machine will be competing with valedictorians and Quiz Bowl champions of yesteryear on Jeopardy! The system, which has been coined 'Watson,' has taken some two years to develop, with the sophisticated Question Answering (QA) system hoping to beat out quick minds and understand some of life's most complex inquiries. Those involved with the project admit that we're still nowhere near perfection when it comes to artificial intelligence, though the goal here is to take another leap forward and create a robot that can at least compete with real human opponents on the show.
Before you ask, Watson will not have a connection to the Internet -- human contestants can't have any outside assistance, so neither can Watson. Instead, it will rely on indexed information that it digests beforehand, which is -- in theory, anyway -- exactly what humans are required to do. Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, had this to say about Waton's future quest: "The essence of making decisions is recognizing patterns in vast amounts of data, sorting through choices and options, and responding quickly and accurately. Watson is a compelling example of how the planet – companies, industries, cities – is becoming smarter. With advanced computing power and deep analytics, we can infuse business and societal systems with intelligence. This project is the latest example of IBM’s longstanding commitment to fundamental research and to overcoming ‘grand challenges’ in science and technology."
In the end, the research underlying Watson is expected to elevate computer intelligence and human-to-computer communication to unprecedented levels, and IBM hopes to apply the unique technological capabilities being developed for Watson to help clients across a wide variety of industries answer business questions quickly and accurately. There's been no announcement made on a date in which to watch for Watson's appearance on the show, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye out for.