IBM's Watson Impressive in Jeopardy Debut

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It's not time to head for the hills just yet... Although IBM's Watson performed admirably in the first day of a three day, two game tournament against former Jeopardy greats Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, there are clearly some kinks that need to be worked out.

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Watson jumped out to an early lead, ringing in and questioning in a Douglas Rain-esque voice, "What is shoe?" to an answer that involved a four letter word for the shielding on a horse's hoof. Watson then chose another clue that turned out to be a daily double, which he immediately made a true daily double by betting the max of $1000. I don't quite remember the exact answer but Watson responded "Who is Hyde?" referring to Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, which was correct. Then he was off to the races. The next question was a fill in the blank type with Beatles' lyrics to which Watson responded "Who is Jude?" Then there was a question about Michael Phelps that he got right and so on. Just before the commercial break I noticed he would have gotten one wrong had he rung in on time (There is a graphic at the bottom of the screen showing Watson's top three choices and his confidence level in each, if the confidence surpasses a certain threshold he will ring in). It was something involving Harry Potter and "Harry Potter" was the correct answer but Voldemort was at the top of Watson's choices. Rutter rang in first though with the correct answer. At the first break Watson led $5200 to Rutter's $1000 and Jennings' $200.

After the break is when the players normally relate personal anecdotes. For Watson they showed a clip of him being tested. The answer was something along the lines of "This was the first non-dairy creamer," to which Watson instantly responded, "What is milk?" which, in turn, elicited a cry of "Wrong Watson! Very wrong!" from one of the programmers.

Watson was much shakier in the second half and lost a decent amount of money before rebounding a bit. The first one he got wrong was something like "A bus trip can either begin or end here, from the Latin for end." Watson responded "What is finis." That was wrong and Jennings chimed in with the correct "Terminal." So Watson answered with the literal Latin for end (terminus also means end). I don't remember if terminus was among his choices. Even so he probably would have responded with terminus rather than the appropriate modern derivation, terminal. The next error was really bad and probably easily avoidable. The answer required a decade and Ken Jennings responded with "What is the 1920s?" which was incorrect. Watson immediately buzzed in with his response: "What is the 1920s?" There were a few more inappropriate responses but then some correct ones and Watson ended single Jeopardy with $5000, as did Rutter. Jennings is "on the board" with $2000.

I'm not afraid for the future of humankind yet, we'll see after Double and Final Jeopardy air tomorrow, followed by a full game on Wednesday.

You can see more about Watson here.