February 15, 2011, 8:38 PM — As IBM's Watson computer digs in for its competition on "Jeopardy!" this week, we are reminded that this is the first in a long series of classic man vs. machine moments. Here we have a look at some of the famous real and not so real man vs. machine action.
The "Jeopardy!" King? If the preliminary test rounds are any indication, the IBM natural language supercomputer known as Watson will give former "Jeopardy!" human champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter a serious run for their money this week. Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is programmed to rival the human ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed and accuracy. Watson's software runs on IBM POWER7 servers optimized to handle the massive number of tasks it must perform at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and deliver correct responses to "Jeopardy!" clues. IBM has been prepping Watson for the show by playing more than 50 "sparring games" against former "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions contestants and Watson has passed the same "Jeopardy!" contestant test that humans take to qualify to play on the show. "Jeopardy!" requires forms of reasoning that are quite sophisticated, using metaphors, puns and puzzles that go beyond basic understanding of the language. As a challenge problem, "Jeopardy!" will stretch the state of the art, IBM stated.
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