I’ll Take Potent Potables for $1000, Alex

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Ken Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! Brad Rutter holds the record for the most money won on Jeopardy!, nearly $3.3 million. The two are being challenged by an IBM computer named “Watson.” The three matches will air Feb. 14-16.

In 1997 IBM’s computer “Big Blue” competed against chess champion Gary Kasparov. This ain’t no game of chess.

The issues this time are a lot trickier. The answers (questions?) are more subtle, and often puns and riddles are involved. I hope the questions are normal Jeopardy! questions and are not tailored to “Watson’s” strengths.

I’ll be watching and will repost when the match dates get closer.

You can read more about the Jeopardy! challenge, here.

H/T: Yahoo News.

14 thoughts on “I’ll Take Potent Potables for $1000, Alex”

  1. The syndicated radio show was Anything Goes with Lise Avery over WFDU. if you go to anythinggoesradio.com you can hear the interview with Woodman in the interview archives section.

  2. Hi David, can you provide more information? Which syndicated radio show was it that Woodman appeared on, and when? Or is your only source the post by “Helen Turner” to the Ken Jennings message board? Thanks–RKS

  3. David Clarke,

    Interesting tidbit! Thanks for the information. I had just assumed they had gotten better at tweaking output from the more traditional electronically generated text-to-speech conversion by using sound processing algorithms. My grandfather always said that any day you learn something new is not a wasted day. Thanks for the assist!

  4. @Buddha Is Laughing. The reason Watson’s voice is so nuanced and human sounding is because it was provided by a human, not generated electronically.

    While IBM initially tried to keep it anonymous, NY Times readers and several bloggers “outed” Watson’s voice as that of actor/audiobook narrator Jeff Woodman.

    Woodman recently confirmed this fact on a syndicated radio show. The voice is from recordings he made for IBM in 2004 for a text-to-speech program.

  5. Watchable videos of the practice round, and an interview with one of the IBM team:


    This video set is interesting because it shows the answers and confidence scores that Watson is assigning on the screen.

    IBM is clearly aiming this leap in AI at commercial applications in medicine.

    No doubt this technology set will also rapidly be adopted by government “intelligence” agencies in the decade to come. One more reason that citizens must guard their privacy in digital domains at all costs. Information will be associated and packaged in ways that we cannot yet imagine.

  6. And from Wired:

    Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the supercomputer is one of the most advanced systems on Earth and was programmed by 25 IBM scientists over the last four years. Researchers scanned some 200 million pages of content — or the equivalent of about one million books — into the system, including books, movie scripts and entire encyclopedias.

    Watson is not your run-of-the-mill computer. The system is powered by 10 racks of IBM POWER 750 servers running Linux, and uses 15 terabytes of RAM, 2,880 processor cores and can operate at 80 teraflops.

    That’s 80 trillion operations per second.

    The machine is the size of 10 refrigerators.

  7. There is an update today:

    IBM’s Watson supercomputer won a practice round against Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and raised a lot of questions about the capabilities of artificial intelligence…

    Rutter said Watson can be a bit overwhelming. Jennings and Rutter quipped about how computer capabilities are part of human advancement, but acknowledged that they were a bit uncomfortable. Jennings said he “didn’t want technology to advance that far just yet.”

    Should be an excellent match.

  8. In addition to being a test of Watson’s confidence algorithms, it will also be an interesting display of what the cutting edge in natural language recognition is capable of doing.

    Too bad they can’t get the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry to provide the voice of Watson, but I’ll have to say that the vocalization generated by Watson in the video puzzling linked to is much more nuanced and human sounding than computer voices past.

  9. That’s awesome! I put “Record Jeopardy” on the calender. Thanks for the post Nal.

  10. They will use regular questions. The word play questions must be extremely challenging to program for.

    The confidence algorithm used by the team is fascinating. Here’s a direct link to a video from earlier this summer:

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