IBM starting to win at Jeopardy

IBM boffins’ attempts to program a computer to play the general knowledge game Jeopardy are apparently going well.

Artificial intelligence experts have been trying to program a supercomputer called Watson so that it can beat humans at the gameshow.

Apparently it can manage this on a regular basis, but has a long way to go before it takes on the likes of 74-time champion Ken Jennings.

“Watson”, is already doing trial runs against people who have actually appeared on the Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy. Watson’s competition includes people who qualified for the show but lost, people who appeared and won once, and people who appeared and won twice.

David Ferrucci, leader of the project team said that Watson wins some and loses some, but is no where near good enough yet.

The games are played at IBM’s “Watson Research Center” in Yorktown Heights with a real stage and professional host.

Watson has an advantage at buzzing in after questions in that it has a great reaction speed.

However its hardest job is to find the information without being connected to the net. It also has to understand natural language, determine the question to an answer, calculate the odds that its answer is correct in order to decide whether it is worth buzzing in.

Watson also has to be programmed to play strategically. The computer may be reasonably sure it knows the answer to a question, but will take into account the score of the game and the dollar value of the question before deciding whether it is worth taking the risk.

IBM hopes that Watson will be able to take place in a public version of the game within a year.