Jeopardy to host showdown between man and machine

Wed 15th of December 2010, filed under Internet News

Quiz show braces itself for AI circus

A top US quiz show has agreed to let a computer compete against real people in what is being billed as the ultimate test for artificial intelligence.

Jeopardy has been a staple of TV schedules across the Atlantic since launching back in 1964. However, next year will mark an important milestone for the long-running light entertainment programme? and the world of artificial intelligence. Between February 14th and 16th 2011, an IBM computer called Watson will attempt to mimic the human mind by deciphering and answering complex quiz questions.

Jeopardy? the ultimate challenge for AI

The reason that Jeopardy is such a tough challenge for artificial intelligence is that the game's clues typically rely on word games such as riddles, irony and double meanings, which cannot be easily computed. It means that Watson? named after the company's founder Thomas J Watson? will need to interpret questions before responding. And just like human contestants, the computer will not be allowed to search for answers online.

A $1 million (£634,00) prize is on offer for the winner, although IBM has pledged to donate the money to charity if Watson is successful. The computer will go head-to-head against Ken Jennings, who holds the record for the most consecutive victories in Jeopardy history, and Brad Rutter, who has won the most money on the show.

Dr David Ferrucci, IBM's chief scientist of Watson computing, told the BBC: "The big challenge we see here is helping people really appreciate the power and limits of the technology we are developing with Watson. Whether we win or lose we are reasonably confident going forward in the competition and I think it is important to play competitively."

In the field of artificial intelligence, public contests are a useful way of charting progress. Robot soccer tournaments, chess tournaments and driverless-car road races are just some of the ways that developers have chosen to demonstrate the latest advances in technology.

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