First time ever TV game #Jeopardy will have computer as contestant. #IBM’s #Watson on air February 14, 15, 16

Today, IBM and Jeopardy  announced that an IBM computing system named “Watson” will compete on Jeopardy against the show’s two most successful and celebrated contestants — Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and that the competition will air on television on February 14, 15 and 16, 2011.

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, has been developed over the past 4 years 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.  Jeopardy 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.

When the IBM scientists began this project, others in the scientific community believed this task to be impossible and the IBM scientists themselves believed the challenge was so difficult, they did not know what they would be able to achieve. This fall, the scientists achieved remarkable results, when Watson played more than 55 “sparring games” against former Jeopardy Tournament of Champions contestants. Highlights of the sparring matches can be viewed and tracked over the next few weeks at

Watson is the most recent example of how IBM’s approximate $6 billion per year investment in R&D is spurring new technologies to help build a smarter planet — driving progress in areas such as healthcare, biology, energy, water resources, food safety, and more.

Watson’s ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, and rapidly process information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives. Watson will enable people to rapidly find specific answers to complex questions. The technology could be applied in areas such as healthcare, for accurately diagnosing patients, to improve online self-service help desks, to provide tourists and citizens with specific information regarding cities, prompt customer support via phone, and much more.

Like Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer that defeated the reigning world chess champion in 1997, Watson represents a major leap in the capacity of information technology systems to identify patterns, gain critical insight and enhance decision-making despite daunting complexity. But while Deep Blue was an amazing achievement in the application of compute power to a computationally well-defined and well-bounded game, Watson faces a challenge that is open-ended and defies the well-bounded mathematical formulation of a game like Chess. Watson has to operate in the near limitless, ambiguous and highly contextual domain of human language and knowledge.

Watson’s patented technology furthers IBM’s leadership in analytics solutions, which help organizations use the vast amount of information they collect to improve their business operations and service to their customers. Additionally, Watson harnesses IBM’s commercial Power 7 system, showcasing how IBM workload-optimized systems provide unmatched capabilities for processing thousands of simultaneous tasks at rapid speeds, once the realm of only scientific supercomputers.

In his 2009 letter to shareholders, Sam Palmisano said: Many companies are reacting to the current global downturn by drastically curtailing spending and investment, even in areas that are important to their future. We’re not looking back, we’re looking ahead. We’re continuing to invest in R&D, in strategic acquisitions, in growth initiatives— and most importantly, during these difficult times, in our people. In other words, we will not simply ride out the storm. Rather, we will take a long-term view, and go on offense. Throughout our history, during periods of disruption and global change, this is what IBM has done. Again and again, we have played a leadership role. We have imagined what the world might be, and actually built it.

Watson is the latest example of IBM scientists imagining what might be and inventing it. On February 14, 15 and 16, the world will see the result of their imagination and ingenuity compete against two of the world’s most successful and celebrated Jeopardy champions.

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