April 23, 2012
Volume 1, Issue 10
A Robot that won Jeopardy!!! Many people thought it couldn’t be done, but in February of 2011, Watson, a robot created by IBM, beat Jeopardy!’s most celebrated winners in the show’s first and only human-versus-machine match-up.
See an interview of Dr. Ferrucci by Lisa Joy Zgorski of NSF and Helen Hastings, a high school senior and NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award Winner at:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_disp.cfm?med_id=72072. Video courtesy of NSF.
Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system that integrates natural language processing, information retrieval, machine learning, knowledge representation and reasoning and massive parallel computation -in other words, a suped-up Robot!
IBM’s DeepQA Project began by exploring how integrating the aspects of computer science described above could advance science – primarily in the application of automatic question answering. They wanted to develop a computer system that could directly and accurately answer peoples’ questions over a broad domain of human knowledge.
Conventional wisdom would have one assuming that Watson is simply a massive database of anticipated questions and answers. However, this is not the case. The developers of the project sought to build a computer that could enable better, faster decision making over unstructured and structured content, so that there could be relevance in society. They aimed to develop a robot able to thrive in a world of natural language, where words take on a variety of meanings based on the context and intonation of the conversation! An important attribution of Watson’s success is its ability to automatically learn and combine accurate confidences across a wide array of algorithms and over different dimensions of evidence. High precision and accurate confidence computations are critical for real business settings where helping users focus on the right content sooner and with greater confidence can make all the difference.
Watson competing against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! Photo courtesy of IBM.
The potential impact for systems like Watson is huge! Fields from healthcare to technical support can be drastically improved with the implementation of a Watson-like system, whether it be in diagnostic assistance or in help-desk centers.
Dr. David Ferrucci. Photo courtesy of David Ferrucci.
Who thinks of this stuff? Dr. David Ferrucci is an IBM Fellow and the lead for the team that developed Watson. He has been at IBM’s T.J. Watson’s Research Center since 1995, where he heads up the Semantic Analysis and Integration Department. Dr. Ferrucci focuses on technologies for automatically discovering valuable knowledge in natural language content and using it to enable better decision making. Dr. Ferrucci enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.
To learn more about Watson, visit: http://www-03.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/ (Be sure to watch the video!).
To read more about IBM’s Deep QA Project, go to: http://www.research.ibm.com/deepqa/deepqa.shtml.
Read what Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! had to say about Watson: http://techland.time.com/2011/02/15/behind-the-scenes-with-jeopardys-executive-producer-and-alex-trebek.