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IBM supercomputer to take on Jeopardy champions

by Shannon Harris on January 13, 2011

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter were nearly unbeatable when they first appeared on the long-running quiz show Jeopardy, but will they fare as well when they're up against artificial intelligence? The duo is about to find out when they take on an IBM supercomputer for the chance to win $1 million, The Associated Press reports.

Jennings, who won a record 74 straight contests, and Rutter, who took home $3.3 million throughout his run, will face a daunting challenge. The computer, is nickanmed Watson, is a hive of information, and has been fed what some may see as the sum of human knowledge, including encyclopedias, books, dictionaries and movie scripts. While it is not connected to the internet, it has access to the equivalent of around 200 million pages of information.

There trio of competitors are planning to stage a practice session Thursday night, which will be televised between February 14 and 16, though the air date of the actual event has not been made public. The winner will take home the $1 million prize, but second and third place receive $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. All parties involved have said they plan to give at least a portion of the money to charity.

Although Watson is not the first computer of its kind to be replete with knowledge, it is among the only ones to be tailored for Jeopardy. It has been programmed to answer in the form of a question and take into account other nuances associated with the show.

"It asks all kinds of things," leader of the IBM team David Ferrucci told the news source. "It has the confidence aspect – don't answer if you don't think you're right. You also have to do it really quickly."

Along with taking down some of the best Jeopardy contestants in history, the technology can be used in the future for quicker medical diagnoses and legal research.

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