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What is Watson?


Watson and Alex Trebek

Watson's avatar with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek

Courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.

Watson is a supercomputer created and designed by IBM. What makes Watson unique is that "he" can understand, to a certain extent, natural human language.

As a test of his capabilities, Watson appeared on Jeopardy! for a three-day, two-game exhibition tournament. He played against two of the most formidable Jeopardy! opponents on the planet: Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. And, perhaps surprisingly, Watson won.

Watson was represented at the Jeopardy! podium by an avatar. The match took place at IBM's New York location, because the computer's servers take up two full rooms. Much too large for a commercial flight to Culver City!

The Jeopardy! tournament revealed some of Watson's strengths and weaknesses. He can take a standard Jeopardy! clue, which are often riddled with nuance, riddles, and even double entendres, and process it to come up with the most likely answers. And he does all of this in fractions of seconds.

Limitations included buzzing in with an incorrect answer that had already been provided by an opponent, since of course Watson can't hear. He did provide incorrect answers all on his own from time to time, but overall his performance was impressive.

While an appearance on a game show is always fun, Watson is destined for greater things. You can learn more about the technical side of this supercomputer and keep up with what he's being used for at the IBM website.

Also Known As: Watson computer, Jeopardy computer
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