You know the Bat Computer, Batman's machine that can answer any question? Well, IBM has been working on developing something like it for well on three years now, and now the company feels that the machine is nearly ready for prime time. Literally — called "Watson," the Q&A supercomputer is scheduled to appear on Jeopardy! this fall.
For researchers trying to improve artificial intelligence, putting a robotic mind on Jeopardy! would be as daunting as creating a computer with the chops to beat the smartest human opponents in a game of chess. Maybe it's fitting, then, that IBM — the company behind "Deep Blue," which defeated Garry Kasparov in '97 — is taking on the challenge.
It's trickier than it sounds. Imagine if you could Google a question and have an answer presented to you? That would require Google to not only search for results for you, but then also scan through articles for the precise answer to your query. When Watson goes on the show, it'll face some stiff opposition in previous champions of the program.
To train for it, Watson has been sitting through some fake rounds, according to the New York Times:
[IBM] mocked up a conference room to resemble the actual "Jeopardy!" set, including buzzers and stations for the human contestants, brought in former contestants from the show and even hired a host for the occasion: Todd Alan Crain, who plays a newscaster on the satirical Onion News Network.
Watson has managed to win a handful of games against nearly a dozen opponents. Interestingly, Deep Blue was originally proposed as the supercomputer to take on Jeopardy!, but the idea was scrapped. Now, here we are, and we got ourselves a contender, folks!