Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘ken jennings

Watson On Watson

with 2 comments

I’m no relation to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Sr.  I joke I’d be on a yacht somewhere if I were.

But I definitely consider myself part of the proud IBM tradition of using technology to solve challenging business problems.

So when our computer (actually, a whole bunch of computers put together along with some transformation Deep Q&A technology developed by IBM Researchers) finally went on air to play the human “Jeopardy!” champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, I was standing by with baited breath.


Before the match got underway, Alex Trebek gave an excellent tour of Watson behind the scenes at our Yorktown Research Lab, where these matches were played.

He also set up the match with some color, explaining this was the next “grand challenge in computing” and that we were about to witness what could be an historic competition.

He also joked that Watson would have appreciated the crowd’s applause, but can neither hear nor see, and would receive all questions in a text message at the same time he read them aloud to the human contestants.

Trebek explained Watson would be represented by an avatar, then took us backstage to meet Watson.  Watson was set up in two units, he explained, and the first thing you noticed was a lot of “noise,” emanating from two very large refrigerator units to help Watson keep his cool.  Literally.

Watson consists of over 2800 POWER750 chips, sitting in some five separate racks on two different units.  Linking them all together, you create a deep analytics engine that houses over 15 trillion bytes.

But, Trebek explained in his continuing set up, Watson would have to “stand on his own” and rely on the knowledge that was stored in his memory, and that he couldn’t be connected to the Internet to look anything else up during the match.

“Some of the world’s most brilliant minds have created this most impressive system.”

That was self-evident from the debut of the first match.  In a matter of a few minutes, Watson was overpowering Jennings and Rutter, some $5000 to Jenning’s $200 and I think Rutter’s $1,200 or so.

Watson was, in short, smoking the humans, nailing a very tough Double Jeopardy question for $1,000 on the second question.

But, in the second half of the first round, the humans came back in a big way, this time smoking Watson.

It is ON.

However, you won’t be able to fully appreciate what you’re seeing until you learn more about the Deep Q&A technology that was powering Watson.

For that, check out the IBM Watson Web site, and you can also see some of the related materials here in our press kit.

As for me, I cannot WAIT until the match to pick back up tomorrow (we IBMers also have NO clue who’s going to win).

I want to send my IBM Research colleagues my best wishes — whether Watson wins or not, you have already demonstrated that we’re well into the next frontier of computing, and I’m just glad you’re on our side!  LOL

Signed, Todd “Turbo” Watson

The Human (For Now)

P.S. Also human, lead investigator on the Watson/Jeaopardy! initiative, Dr. David Ferucci provides an answer to the question “Why Jeopardy!” in the video below.

Written by turbotodd

February 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Watson, Come Here, I Need You

leave a comment »

Did you hear the on about the IBM computer that played the game show “Jeopardy” and beat two former world champion human “Jeopardy” players?

If not, you missed the outcome from yesterday’s practice round, where Watson won a practice round $4,400 to Ken Jennings $3,400 and Brad Rutter’s $1,200.

This was just a precursor to the final rounds airing on February 14-16, but after watching some video footage of the action yesterday, it was eerily reminiscent of those chess matches in 1997 that shall go unnamed. Only this time, I think the computer is actually starting to think.  And sdpeak.

Me, I’m not going anywhere near it. I’ve already got enough machines beating up on me in my life: my iPad, my iPhone 4, my new AT&T U-Verse umbilical cord to the world.

But I would lie if I were to say I weren’t anxious to see the final results of the Watson/Jeopardy mano a mano competition. Latest odds from our Watson/Jeopardy poll give Watson the edge at 52%, with Ken Jennings at 40% and Brad Rutter at 7% (NOT a scientific poll, by any means…just a polling pulse of the crowd via our Web site.)

Which, by the way, I would strongly encourage you to visit and spend some time with before the official matches air in February.  My colleagues have been busting their humps to produce some great video content explaining this story in a way we mere mortals can understand, and beyond all the hyperbole, explaining the potential ramifications of this breakthrough in artificial intelligence.

Me, I’m finishing my week off here in a frigid NYC, meeting with colleagues and thinking about gridiron action this weekend.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and pick the following: Pittsburgh over Baltimore, New England over the Jets, Chicago over Seattle, and Green Bay over Atlanta.

That’s not necessarily all of which I want to happen.  I’m just picking what I think might happen.  Then again, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan – do keep that in mind.

Before I flee the wintry cold of the northeast, let me also remind you of the forthcoming Lotusphere 2011 event in sunny Orlando, Florida.  I’ll be jetting that way in a couple of weeks to blog and podvodcast from there with mi developerWorks amigo, Scott Laningham.

Note that this year we’re also seeing the introduction of the Lotusphere Social Business Summit, where C-level execs and other senior leaders from sales, marketing, operations, and other non-IT related functions can come together and learn how social business practices can help boost their bottom lines.  And if last fall’s IBM Industry Summit in Barcelona was any indication, those attending are going to be in for a real treat.

You can learn more about the Social Business Summit here.

P.S. Tweet @turbotodd and let me know the origination of today’s headline!

Written by turbotodd

January 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Natural Language Processing For $500, Alex

with one comment

I recently provided a personal remembrance of the Kasparov v. Deep Blue chess matches of the late 1990s, the IBM “John Henry” contest between a Russian chess grandmaster and an IBM supercomputer.

At the end of the post, per the custom of American TV game show Jeopardy!,”I posed the answer with a question: “What is Watson?”

Here’s your expanded answer: Watson is a new supercomputer, named after founder Thomas J. Watson, and programmed once again by a set of IBM Researchers, this time to compete on the longstanding game show Jeopardy! against the show’s two most successful and celebrated contestants — Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

The first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition will air on February 14, 15 and 16, 2011, with two matches being played over three consecutive days.

Watson was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge –- build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.

The Jeopardy! format provides the ultimate challenge because the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not.

Competing against Watson will be two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on Jeopardy! Ken Jennings broke the Jeopardy! record for the most consecutive games played by winning 74 games in a row during the 2004-2005 season, resulting in winnings of more than $2.5 million.

World-class Jeopardy! players Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will test the mettle of IBM's Watson supercomputer in February 2011.

Brad Rutter won the highest cumulative amount ever by a single Jeopardy! player, earning $3,255,102. The total amount is a combination of Rutter’s original appearance in 2002, plus three Tournament wins:  the “Tournament of Champions” and the “Million Dollar Masters Tournament” in 2002 and the “Ultimate Tournament of Champions” in 2005.

Artificial Intelligence That Could Save Humanity For $300

The grand prize for this competition will be $1 million with second place earning $300,000 and third place $200,000. Rutter and Jennings will donate 50 percent of their winnings to charity and IBM will donate 100 percent of its winnings to charity.

“After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson.

Dr. David Dr. David Ferucci is the principal investigator and team lead for the DeepQA/Watson system that will be challenging the world-class Jeopardy! champions.

Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson’s breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives.”

“We’re thrilled that Jeopardy! is considered a benchmark of ultimate knowledge,” said Harry Friedman, Executive Producer of Jeopardy!. “Performing well on Jeopardy! requires a combination of skills, and it will be fascinating to see whether a computer can compete against arguably the two best Jeopardy! players ever.”

Watson: Spars In More Than 50 Games To Prep For The Best

This past fall, Watson played more than 50 “sparring games” against former Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions contestants in final preparation for its television debut.

In addition, Watson has taken and passed the same Jeopardy! contestant test that humans take to qualify to play on the show, giving Jeopardy! producers confidence that the match will be both entertaining and competitive.

You can see highlights of those sparring matches here.

Real World Applications for Watson’s Technology

One of the criticisms that emanated during and after the Deep Blue chess matches was that IBM didn’t demonstrate the real-world applicability of the technology behind the chess moves.

This time around, IBM is working to answer more of those kinds of questions up front.

To be sure, beyond Jeopardy!, the technology behind Watson can be adapted to solve problems and drive progress in various fields (I’m already trying to understand how we could leverage it on our Web site!)

The Watson computer has the ability to sift through vast amounts of data and return precise answers, ranking its confidence in its answers. Such technology could be applied to a whole range of industries: healthcare, to more accurately diagnose patients based on empirical data; tech, to improve online health desks; tourism, to help provide tourists with information about cities; customer service, to improve prompting and directing customer support inquiries via phone and web…the list goes on.

Yes, But What Is Watson?

Watson is a breakthrough human achievement in the scientific field of Question and Answering, also known as “QA.” The Watson software is powered by an IBM POWER7 server optimized to handle the massive number of tasks that Watson must perform at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and deliver correct responses to Jeopardy! clues.

The system incorporates a number of proprietary technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time.

About Jeopardy!

Jeopardy!, the winner of 28 Emmy awards since its syndicated debut in 1984, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most awards won by a TV Game Show. The series is the #1-rated quiz show in syndication with nearly 9 million daily viewers. Jeopardy! is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company. It is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp.

For more information about Jeopardy!, visit www.Jeopardy.com

To learn more about Watson and to view a video series about the DeepQA technology powering Watson, please visit www.ibmwatson.com.

You can also join the social discussion about Watson (be sure to include the hashtag #ibmwatson in your Tweets!)

If you want, you can also become Watson’s friend on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ibmwatson.

Even supercomputers need friends.

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

%d bloggers like this: