IBM is developing software designed to compete against human "Jeopardy!" contestants, which, if successful, could mark a major advancement in artificial intelligence. Beating "Jeopardy!" will require a program that can analyze an almost infinite range of relationships and make subtle comparisons and interpretations.
The creators of the system, which has been named Watson after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr., say they are not confident that it will be able to successfully compete on the show. Human "Jeopardy!" champions generally provide correct responses 85 percent of the time. "The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms," says IBM artificial intelligence researcher David A. Ferrucci. "And we're not there yet." The researchers say the goal is to develop software that understands human questions and responds to them correctly.
In a match that IBM has negotiated with "Jeopardy!" producers, the program will be able to receive questions as an electronic text, while the human contestants will both see and hear the question. The computer will respond with a synthesized voice to answer and choose follow-up categories. To simulate the dimensions of the challenge faced by human contestants, the computer will not be connected to the Internet, but will have to draw from data that was processed and indexed before the show. Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Eric Nyberg, who is working with IBM on computer systems capable of answering questions not limited to specific topics, says the difficulty is getting the computer to understand the question to be searched.
From The New York Times
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