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February 17, 2011

Watson Goes Undefeated in Three-Night Jeopardy Series

Michael Feldman

In the second and final game of the Jeopardy match televised Wednesday night, Watson prevailed once again, beating Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter decisively. The two-game total ended with Watson at $77,147, Jennings at $24,000 and Rutter at $21,600.

In the first round of Wednesday’s game, Jennings and Rutter held their own, answering a good share of the clues correctly and beating Watson to the buzzer in some cases, even when IBM’s computer had computed the correct response. At the end of the round, Jennings was ahead with $8,600, with Watson in second place at 4,800, and Rutter bringing up the rear with $2,400.

In the Double Jeopardy round, Jennings continued his hot streak, at one point leading Watson $15,000 to $6,273. Unflustered, Watson slowly worked its way back to the top. The computer’s most impressive response was on this clue: ITCHY (THE MOUSE) & SCRATCHY (THE CAT) STARRED IN “SKINLESS IN SEATTLE” ON A SHOW WITHIN THIS FOX SHOW. “What is The Simpsons,” replied Watson. The answer wasn’t impressive in the sense that it was able to correlate an episode title with the name of the TV show — that would have been an easy lookup — but that it was able to filter out the less important details and discern that the clue was even asking for show’s name.

By the time the Double Jeopardy round was over, Watson had accumulated $23,440, with Jennings at $18,200 and Rutter at $5,600. The Final Jeopardy clue — WILLIAM WILKINSON’S “AN ACCOUNT OF THE PRINICIPALITIES OF WALLACHIA AND MODAVIA” INSPIRED THIS AUTHOR’S MOST FAMOUS NOVEL — was an obscure reference to19th century Dracula author Bram Stoker. It was answered correctly by all three contestants. Watson, realizing that Jennings could win the game by betting high, wagered $17,973, bringing the computer’s nightly total to $41,413.

Here is the first half of Wednesday night’s broadcast:

To watch the second half of the show, click here.

As for Watson’s future, the machine will be leaving the gameshow circuit and will be applying its AI smarts to the healthcare arena. On Thursday, IBM announced it will team with speech recognition company Nuance Communications, as well as Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to commercialize the technology for medical diagnoses. From the IBM press release:

For example, a doctor considering a patient’s diagnosis could use Watson’s analytics technology, in conjunction with Nuance’s voice and clinical language understanding solutions, to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible. This could help medical professionals confidently determine the most likely diagnosis and treatment options.

The show’s over folks. Time to make some money.

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