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IBM's Watson computer beats 'Jeopardy!' champions

The computer wins the three-day challenge, outscoring Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

February 17, 2011|By Melissa Maerz, Los Angeles Times

"Jeopardy!" has a new champion, and its name is Watson.

During the Wednesday finale of the three-day "Jeopardy!" challenge that pitted all-stars Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against an IBM supercomputer, the machine beat the men. Watson finished with $77,147, Jennings with $24,000 and Rutter with $21,600.

The win is a publicity coup for IBM, which created Watson as part of its Great Mind Challenge series. The company hopes to sell Watson's question-answering technology for use in hospitals and on call-center help desks. The last time IBM created a man-versus-machine challenge of this scale, it built Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Watson had a huge advantage going into the final match, with a lead of more than $20,000 over Rutter, who was in second place. Though it missed a Daily Double answer regarding "The Elements of Style," it showed its versatility later, buzzing in correctly on subjects as diverse as "The Simpsons" and halter tops.

Watson also won Wednesday night's Final Jeopardy round, offering the correct answer to a clue asking which author's most famous novel was inspired by William Wilkinson's "An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia." Watson, Jennings and Rutter all knew the answer: Bram Stoker, author of "Dracula."

Jennings, ever a good sport, bowed to the new champ.

"I for one welcome our new computer overlords," he wrote on his video screen, quoting an episode of "The Simpsons."

melissa.maerz@latimes.com

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