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Innovation & Startups

Chicks dig me for $500? Jeopardy! titans take on IBM computer (with an assist from CMU)

In the Nineties, chess mastermind Garry Kasparov challenged a computer named Deep Blue to a game of chess, proving that despite its super human speed, the computer was no match for human intellect on the chessboard.

The computer is gaining on us. Next week a televised challenge raises the bar on artificial intelligence when an IBM computer named Watson, developed jointly by IBM and Carnegie Mellon University, goes up against two former champions on NBC's Jeopardy!, the long-running quiz show that requires quick-thinking questions to answers.

Brace yourself. Watson responds (verbally) so quickly he has already kicked butt in the practice rounds.

"The idea that a person could ask a computer a question in standard English and get a specific, accurate and authoritative answer has fired imaginations since the beginning of the computer age," says Eric Nyberg, a professor in CMU's Language Technologies Institute. 

IBM and CMU have been collaborators since 2007 in the development of a system called "Open Advancement of Question Answering (OAQA)," a sort of "plug and play" architecture that allows various components to be combined or substituted as needed. It's sort of like picking an all-star team, mixing and matching the best players to improve overall performance, explains Nyberg.

The man vs. machine Jeopardy! challenge brings former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to the stage with Watson. The program will air Feb. 14, 15 and 16 at 7 p.m.

In addition, PBS's NOVA tonight, Feb. 9, on WQED at 10 p.m. will highlight the story of the Watson-Jeopardy challenge. The show will feature interviews about artificial intelligence with CMU faculty including Tom Mitchell, Alex Waibel and Luis von Ahn.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Eric Nyberg, CMU

Image courtesy of NBC's Jeopardy!

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