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IBM's Watson Named Person Of The Year By Webbys

IBM's 'Jeopardy'-playing supercomputer, Watson, has been named person of the year by the Webby Awards.

It didn't bother the Webby Awards, which are sponsored by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Science, much that the 'person' of the year was in fact a machine.

The nearly 6-foot-tall, room-sized computer with 15 trillion bytes of memory gained worldwide attention in February when it handily defeated 'Jeopardy' champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

It took home a $1 million prize for winning the three day challenge, which was donated to charity.

"Most people never get to see how these technologies are applied," says Professor Eric Nyberg, who is on Watson's development team.

"But the question-answering software that Watson demonstrated captured the public's imagination by allowing people to see how this might be used in the business world or to help doctors, lawyers and other professionals do their jobs better."

"It was a very compelling public demonstration of machine intelligence."

Jennings later said he credited Watson's 'perfectly timed buzz' for the win.

"It plays its game coldly, implacably, always offering a perfectly timed buzz when it's confident about an answer," he said. "The buzzer skill is crucial—games between humans are more often won by the fastest thumb than the fastest brain."

"This advantage is only magnified when one of the 'thumbs' is an electromagnetic solenoid trigged by a microsecond-precise jolt of current."

"I knew it would take some lucky breaks to keep up with the computer, since it couldn't be beaten on speed."

June 3, 2011 |

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