February 16, 2011, 11:49 AM — IBM supercomputer Watson blew away the competition Tuesday night during its Jeopardy showdown with the game show's former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. The computer was able to answer 13 of the first 15 Jeopardy clues virtually uncontested, with one answer going to Jennings and another problem that all three contestants got wrong. Watson ended the broadcast with $35,734, followed by Rutter at $10,400 and Jennings at $4,800. The competitors will square off again Wednesday night for a final Jeopardy battle.
Watson Screams Ahead Again
There appeared to be some hope that Rutter and Jennings would be able to compete effectively against Watson during the latter part of Monday's Jeopardy round. Watson started to trip up on more advanced wordplay and ended Monday tied with Rutter at $5,000 each.
But Watson and its 13.64 terabytes of memory got the job done quickly during Tuesday's broadcast, and in cutthroat fashion, too. Unlike Monday's show, Watson played aggressively, choosing large-money problems mostly in the Double Jeopardy round. The higher the clue's value, the harder the wordplay tends to be.
The first 15 clues were indicative of how the rest of the game, went with Watson dominating the rest of the game.
Watson takes a guess?
Watson surprised the audience during the second Daily Double clue when the computer wasn't sure of the answer but hazarded a guess anyway. Watson isn't supposed to answer unless its level of certainty passes a threshold (based on a percentage) dubbed Watson's "buzz threshold."
The threshold isn't a fixed value and floats depending on the clue's level of difficulty. Watson was 32% certain of the correct answer, but that was well below its buzz threshold for that clue. So faced with the prospect of losing money if it didn't answer (only the contestant who picks the Daily Double clue may answer), the computer went with its best guess and it was correct.
The Jeopardy clue Watson guessed on was, "The 'Ancient Lion of Nimrud' went missing from this city's national museum in 2003 (along with a lot of other stuff)." The answer was "What is Baghdad?"