Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it.
Watson is an artificial intelligence program developed by IBM designed to answer questions posed in natural language. Named after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson, IBM, who supposedly said that
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers"
This quote is probably not true, but is nevertheless popular. Watson is being developed as part of the DeepQA research project. The program runs on POWER7 processor-based systems.
Watson is an application of advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation and reasoning, and machine learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering.
In Feb 2011, Watson competed on the television quiz show Jeopardy! As a test of its abilities. Jeopardy is a quiz show, but works slightly differently. The answer is given and you have to figure out the question. In a two-game, combined-point match aired in three Jeopardy! Episodes running from February 14–16, Watson bested Brad Rutter, the biggest all-time money winner on Jeopardy!, and Ken Jennings, the record holder for the longest championship streak. Watson received first prize of $1 million, while Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter received $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. Jennings and Rutter pledged to donate half their winnings to charity, while IBM divided Watson's winnings among two charities. This was the first man-versus-machine competition in Jeopardy!’s history...
The IBM team provided Watson with 200 million of documents, including dictionaries, encyclopaedias and other reference material that it could use to build its knowledge, such as bibles, novels and plays, content consuming 4 terabytes of hard disk storage. A standalone program, Watson does not utilize the Internet when playing the game show. This is similar to man memorizing stuff from his brain.
Rather than relying on a single algorithm, Watson uses thousands of algorithms simultaneously to understand the question being asked and find the correct path to the answer.
In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself.
Three artificial-intelligence experts, including the leader of the Watson team, discuss the supercomputer's prospects as the more algorithms that independently arrive at the same answer, the more likely Watson is to be correct. Once Watson comes up with a small number of potential solutions, it is able to check against its database to ascertain if the solution made sense. In a sequence of 20 mock games, human participants were able to use the six to eight seconds it takes to read the clue to decide whether to buzz in with the correct answer. During that time, Watson is also able to evaluate the answer and determine if it is sufficiently confident in the result to buzz in...
By February 2010Watson was then able to buzz in and speak with an electronic voice, when it gave the responses in Jeopardy!'s question format
Originally Watson buzzed in electronically, but Jeopardy! requested that it physically press a button, as the human contestants would. Even with a robotic "finger" pressing the buzzer, Watson remained faster than its human competitors. Jennings noted, "If you're trying to win on the show, the buzzer is all," and that Watson "can knock out a microsecond-precise buzz every single time with little or no variation. Human reflexes can't compete with computer circuits in this regard." Also, Watson could avoid the time-penalty for accidentally buzzing in too early, because it was electronically notified when to buzz, whereas the human contestants had to anticipate the right moment.
According to IBM, "The goal is to have computers start to interact in natural human terms across a range of applications and processes, understanding the questions that humans ask and providing answers that human can understand and justify." The natural constraints present in games may provide an ideal environment for the development of computer intelligence.
Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords.
New York Times
D Sai Prashnath