IBM is no stranger to trumping humans at their own game. Back in '97, IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat chess champion Garry Kasparov (though Kasparov cried fowl and managed a draw against the machine later). Now DeepQA, the company's question and answering supercomputer also known as "Watson," may stand opposite Alex Trebek alongside human contestants.
"The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms," IBM AI researcher and team leader, David A. Ferrucci, told the New York Times. "And we're not there yet." The Jeopardy! challenge represents another milestone for the company's supercomputers, and a defined target for IBM researchers to set their sights on. DeepQA probably won't be talking to folks in a natural manner anytime soon, but it could take on a role much like the Bat Computer.
As for how it'll appear on the program, IBM is still working it out. A digital avatar is being considered, though Harry Friedman, the executive producer of Jeopardy!, told the New York Times, "We all agree that it shouldn't look like Robby the Robot."