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IBM Supercomputer Beats Jeopardy Champs In Practice Round

Jeopardy champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter faced off against IBM's supercomputer Watson in a practice round on Thursday.

But it's the human contestants who may need a brush up on their trivia after Watson came out on top with relative ease.

The supercomputer with 2,800 Power7 cores with 15 terabytes of RAM and the knowledge of thousands of encyclopedias, dictionaries thesauruses, books, and screenplays made itself look like a natural at the game.

Watson, which treats every question like a clue while figuring out exactly what the question is trying to ask, ended up with $4,400 won, compared to Jennings' $3,400 and Rutter's $1,200.

The interpretation can be especially difficult in Jeopardy, compared to other trivia games, because the language used often incorporates wordplay, riddles, and irony. Watson deals with this by coming up with thousands of different possible answers before it ranks each by the possibility of correctness. It will only buzz it if it is reasonably confident of its answer.

And, in fact, Watson's logo will change color to indicate its confidence. The above it will glow blue if it's confident, and orange if it's not.

The question is sent directly to Watson, so it doesn't have to 'hear' or 'read' the question. However, it does have to press a physical button to buzz in, just like the other contestants.

Watson also isn't connected to the internet and able to look up information, which is why it has to store so much data. Not because it can't but because IBM didn't believe it would be a fair advantage.

"It turns out to be like playing a very good human player," Jennings said after the round. "It knows it's stuff but it can be beat."

The real contest in February will be held in a two-day tournament format, in which the competitor with the most amount of money after two days will be crowned the victor. The winner will be awarded $1 million, second place $300,000, and third place $200,000.

IBM will donate the full amount to charity if Watson wins, while Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will donate half.

Check out video from the IBM Supercomputer's Jeopardy match below:

January 14, 2011 |

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