Watson on Jeopardy

Last summer, the New York Times published an article about an IBM supercomputer being trained to solve Jeopardy clues. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Jeopardy, for those of you who live under this rock with me, involves familiarity with astronomical amounts of trivia, something computers are great at, but it also trades on wordplay and allusions. A Jeopardy win would be a real score for computer understanding of human language. It’ll be a challenge:

Watson will not appear as a contestant on the regular show; instead, “Jeopardy!” will hold a special match pitting Watson against one or more famous winners from the past. If the contest includes Ken Jennings — the best player in “Jeopardy!” history, who won 74 games in a row in 2004 — Watson will lose if its performance doesn’t improve.

That episode is now scheduled to air—in February 2011. And indeed, Watson is facing Jennings (and Brad Rutter, another Jeopardy record-holder, in dollar winnings).

Update: Practice rounds against Rutter and Jennings

Update Feb 2011: Good thing you welcome your robot overlords, Mr Jennings!

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