So, who won?  A long time ago, no one would have thought that a computer would be able to beat a human in chess – yet it happened when IBM’s Deep Blue versus chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.  This time, can a computer beat some of the greats of the game show Jeopardy?  Of course, it airs tonight, but I had to read Bloomburg’s article to find out. 

IBM built Watson to tackle a challenge in artificial intelligence: making a machine that could understand natural human language, as opposed to the keyword searches used in the search engines of Google Inc. or Microsoft Corp. IBM wanted the effort to have real-world applications. “Jeopardy,” with its word plays, innuendos and penalties for inaccuracy, proved a good test.

This is exciting.  While IBM will sell this computer to corporations, for example call centers will be huge on this, they can lay off their employees and have the computer field all the calls, and any call it cannot answer, will get the supervisor to type in the answer. As the Bloomburg article reads:

The machine has generated interest from businesses in various sectors, especially customer support and health care, Dave Ferrucci, IBM’s lead scientist on the project, said in an interview last year. The computer runs on IBM’s Power 7 server system.

It will be exciting when this will be able to be put in a home.  Then every home will be like Star Trek’s LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) - computers that talk and you can ask it questions.  I can’t tell you how much the geek in me wants to say outloud, “Computer, what does….”. 

It is obvoius that IBM did not create “Watson” just to win Jeopardy.  The Washington Post writes:

David F. McQueeney, vice president of IBM Research said that Watson’s real applications are far more practical. The computer is actually intended to help users get a handle on unstructured data such as text, e-mails and in-company mail messages.

Text, e-mails, messages…  Watson would be bored with that.  That maybe one of the purposes, but it will do so much more.  Hook it up to a smart grid, put it in a robot, the possibilities are endless.  I hope in about ten years I can have one in my home. 

Mark Viquesney