Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Watson Wins on Jeopardy!

Just finished watching the first episode of Jeopardy featuring IBM's Watson computer in competition with two humans (two of the most successful/celebrated contestants ever to appear on Jeopardy). A few quick thoughts:
  • In some ways it doesn't seem a fair competition; on the one hand a computer can store a huge amount of data and retrieve it very efficiently, but there is only so much the human brain can memorize. On the other hand, it seems to me that humans would have the advantage in lateral thinking and making obscure connections in clues, where an algorithm might have a more difficult time with this.
  • The explanations of how Watson works were really well done - nice visuals and simple ideas, easy for the audience to grasp.
  • I'm really interested in why they made the 'avatar' the way they did. Why not give it a humanoid appearance? The voice also sounded smug to me, and at least one other person I've spoken too thought so as well - she even caught herself hoping it would get the answer wrong. Incidentally, I feel the same way about Alex Trebek.

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