published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Computer crushes the competition on ‘Jeopardy!’

By FRAZIER MOORE

AP Television Writer

NEW YORK — The computer brained its human competition in Game 1 of the Man vs. Machine competition on “Jeopardy!”

On the 30-question game board, veteran “Jeopardy!” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter managed only five correct responses between them during the Double Jeopardy round that aired Tuesday. They ended the first game of the two-game face-off with paltry earnings of $4,800 and $10,400 respectively.

Watson, their IBM supercomputer nemesis, emerged from the Final Jeopardy round with $35,734.

Tuesday’s competition began with Jennings (who has the longest “Jeopardy!” winning streak at 74 games) making the first choice. But Watson jumped in with the correct response: What is leprosy?

He followed that with bang-on responses Franz Liszt, dengue fever, violin, Rachmaninoff and albinism, then landed on a Daily Double in the “Cambridge” category.

“I’ll wager $6,435,” Watson (named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson) said in his pleasant electronic voice.

“I won’t ask,” said host Alex Trebek, wondering with everybody else where that figure came from.

But Watson knew what he was doing. Sir Christopher Wren was the correct response, and Watson’s total vaulted to $21,035 as the humans stood by helplessly.

Watson blew his next response. But so did both his opponents. He guessed Picasso. Jennings guessed Cubism. Rutter guessed Impressionism. (Correct question: What is modern art?)

Back to Watson, who soon hit the game’s second Daily Double. But even when he was only 32 percent sure (you could see his precise level of certainty displayed on the screen), Watson correctly guessed Baghdad as the city from whose national museum the ancient Lion of Nimrud ivory relief went missing (along with “a lot of other stuff”) in 2003. Watson added $1,246 to his stash.

He even correctly identified the Church Lady character from “Saturday Night Live.”

One answer stumped everyone: “A Titian portrait of this Spanish king was stolen at gunpoint from an Argentine museum in 1987.” (Correct response: Philip.) Jennings shook his head. Rutter wrenched his face. Watson, as usual, seemed unfazed.

Even when he bungled Final Jeopardy, Watson (with his 10 offstage racks of computer servers) remained poised.

The answer: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.”

Both Jennings and Rutter knew the right response was Chicago.

Watson guessed doubtfully, “What is Toronto?????” It didn’t matter. He had shrewdly wagered only $947.

The trio will return on Wednesday, when their second game is aired. The overall winner will collect $1 million.

The bouts were taped at the IBM research center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., last month.

———

Online:

http://jeopardy.com

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jpo3136 said...

I saw a video of this and it was lame. Of course if you hook a computer up to a massive "answer key" that it will find the right response. The machine doesn't even have to press button as a person would, does it? It's the digital version of playing Jeopardy against the encyclopedia. Two thumbs down.

February 16, 2011 at 9:27 a.m.
signal said...

jpo, no the amazing thing is that it's able to understand the oddities of the english language such as puns, etc. If you've ever watched Jeopardy you know that the questions they ask are rarely straightforward. It also is able to learn from its mistakes. And yes, it does indeed have to press the button when it wants to answer.

February 16, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

I'm sure it's the same as some housewife from Peoria pressing the button. Come on, it's lame. The efforts of thousands of engineers and scientists and technicians against some Trivia Nerd. As if we'd be surprised that the robot would do well.

February 16, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.
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