CHICAGO – An IBM computer crushed two human champions Tuesday in the second round of a man vs. machine showdown on the popular US television game show “Jeopardy!”
“Watson,” a supercomputer named after Thomas Watson, founder of the US technology giant, dominated the game by beating his human opponents to the buzzer on all but a handful of questions.
The computer managed to answer every attempted question correctly — except the usually critical final round.
The audience groaned when Watson answered “What is Toronto????” to the question: “Its largest airport is named for a WWII hero. Its second largest, for a WWII battle” under the category US cities.
Ken Jennings — who holds the “Jeopardy!” record of 74 straight wins — gave Chicago as the correct answer, as did Brad Rutter who won a record $3.25 million on the show.
But even though they wagered nearly all their winnings on the challenge, they couldn’t catch up to Watson’s lead.
Watson ended the second day of the three day challenge with $36,681 while Rutter had $5,400 and Jennings had $2,400.
Watson, which is not connected to the Internet, plays the game by crunching through multiple algorithms at dizzying speed and attaching a percentage score to what it believes is the correct response.
Watson receives the clues electronically by text message at the same time as they are revealed to the human contestants.
The first player to hit the buzzer gets to answer the question. The others only get a chance to answer if the first player gets the answer wrong.
Watson beat the humans to the buzzer in 24 of 30 Double Jeopardy questions. Jennings managed to get three correct answers in while Rutter won two.
None were able to identify a portrait of Spanish King Phillip II as that which was stolen at gunpoint from an Argentina gallery in 1987.
Watson, which has been under development at IBM Research labs in New York since 2006, is the latest machine developed by IBM to challenge mankind — in 1997, an IBM computer named “Deep Blue” defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match.
“Jeopardy!,” which first aired on US television in 1964, tests a player’s knowledge in a range of categories, from geography to politics to history to sports and entertainment.
A dollar amount is attached to each question and the player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. Players have money deducted for wrong answers.
In a twist on traditional game play, contestants are provided with clues and need to supply the questions.