Here's The Real Reason IBM Is Building Its "Watson" Computer


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IBM’s Watson is gearing up for a championship round of Jeopardy against brainiacs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter next month.To prep, the supercomputer has sparred against dozens of former Jeopardy Tournament of Champions.

There’s a $1 million grand prize at stake, but IBM’s real goal is to create a better search engine than Google and a better answer engine than Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha’s Stephen Wolfram has written a terrific post outlining the difference between his program and IBM’s Watson, explaining that while Watson is rooted “in the field of information retrieval that is in many ways shared with search engines,” Wolfram Alpha “is dealing directly with raw, precise, computable knowledge.”

Wolfram also answers that all-consuming question: if the various search engines were pitted against each other in front of Alex Trebek, which would come out on top?

After sampling 200,000 or so past Jeopardy questions (and excluding sites specifically about Jeopardy) here are the results:



Google wins! But not by much. Concludes Wolfram:

If nothing else, this gives us pretty interesting information about the modern search engine landscape. In particular, it shows us that the more mature search systems are getting to be remarkably similar in their raw performance—so that other aspects of user experience (like Wolfram|Alpha integration!) are likely to become progressively more important.

No matter what, our odds are on Watson for the match, which airs February 14,15, and 16.

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