18 February 2011
Two champion contestants on a popular American quiz show have been easily beaten by a computer. The IBM machine, named Watson, won in three special editions of Jeopardy. One of the men it defeated holds the Jeopardy record of 74 straight wins.
Click to hear the report:
Jeopardy is one of America's oldest and most popular quiz shows. But this time, inside the brightly-lit studio, a contest billed as 'man versus machine' - the programme's producers pitted two of their most successful contestants ever against a computer. Known as Watson, the computer is a giant piece of hardware, equivalent in size to several fridges. And over three programmes, Watson beat his human contenders with ease.
In a split-second, Watson is able to digest the question and try and match it against huge amounts of information it has at its disposal. It very quickly assesses how good a match it thinks it has and buzzes either very quickly, or not so quickly, reflecting how confident it is that it has the right answer.
Watson is also able to notice nuances in language, between say 'bat' the animal and 'bat' used in sports. On a prime-time US TV show with millions of viewers it was great publicity for IBM. But the company says Watson the computer is an IT genius and a breakthrough in computing.
Tom Burridge, BBC News
Click to hear the vocabulary:
- billed as
publicised or highlighted as
- pitted… against
matched with or set up to compete against
- human contenders
human opponents or opposition
- to digest
to understand and organise
- at its disposal
available to use
- how good a match
how effective a comparison or answer
makes a noise to indicate it has an answer to a question
- nuances in language
slight differences in what certain words or phrases mean
- an IT genius
something (or someone) highly skilled with gadgets and technology
- a breakthrough
a new discovery or something that is groundbreaking