Computer crushes human ‘Jeopardy!’ champs

From PhysOrg:

Comp Most of the banter and gentle humor that usually pepper the popular quiz show was gone as the supercomputer dominated the game by beating his human opponents to the buzzer again and again. Ken Jennings — who holds the “Jeopardy!” record of 74 straight wins — shook his buzzer in silent frustration as the computer's artificial voice answered the first dozen challenges without pause, getting all but one right. “Watson” – named after Thomas Watson, the founder of the US technology giant — receives the clues electronically by text message at the same time as they are revealed to the human contestants. The first player to hit the buzzer gets to answer the question. The others only get a chance if the first player gets the answer wrong.

Watson, which is not connected to the Internet, plays the game by crunching through multiple algorithms at dizzying speed and attaching a percentage score to what it believes is the correct response. It beat Jennings and Brad Rutter — who won a record $3.25 million on the show — to the buzzer on 24 of 30 questions. Five-time “Jeopardy!” champion Jeffrey Spoeri sympathized with Jennings and Rutter, and said the computer's speed to the buzzer seemed like an unfair advantage. “I gotta root for the humans,” said Spoeri, who won 105,000 dollars on the show in November 2006. But he was deeply impressed with the computer's skills. “The actual game play was just amazing, that it would know the answers and discern which one is the correct one,” Spoeri told AFP after viewing the first show.

“It's a terrific experiment.”

More here.