Thursday, January 20, 2011

Deep Blue Jeopardy

Big Blue does it again: built a super computer and let's see if we can beat Jeopardy enthusiasts!

Ok, as an AI enthusiast, this is of course very impressive. To use a computer to search for interesting bits of knowledge, that is not that difficult, but creating an algorithm (or in this case: a stack of algorithms) that is able to play along a real Jeopardy episode (in Dutch, we call it Waagstuk), that is a big challenge.

Picture taken from Laboratoire d’Informatique des Systèmes Adaptatifs, Université de Montréal .

It is impressive to see Watson, IBM's supercomputer, play this small round of the famous game. What intrigues me most is not the speed of its answers, but how Watson can place the used language of the questions in the correct context and use the tips at the top of the question board. Don't underestimated the difficulty of human language and the several layers and many meanings certain words and sentences can have.
The hilarious theme "Chicks dig me" is for example about female archeologists.

In the interview, Dave of IBM (David Gondek, Ph. D.) already mentions it. Try it with Google and type in "bat" like he suggests, as first hits I personally respectively get:

And that is only one of uncountable examples, we (as human beings that daily use our human languages) are used to think in certain contexts. For us it is also not always clear and we have to learn first which the exact meaning of every word in that particular situation. It goes so naturally for us that it is as good as impossible for us to translate it into a technical algorithm. Therefore, what the Watson-team has done, the offer that particular problem to a supercomputer and let it learn by itself how to determine which meaning belongs to which context.

On a personal level: have a look at the interview by Paul and look closely at Dave's face when he explains more about the analysis of human language, you can see all his enthusiasm building up. Afterwards, Dave stops, looks down and it seems like he tries to contain himself not to gallop away with all his excitement. I believe he does that about three times, priceless.
I hold a high respect for researchers that get this thrilled about their subject and in this particular case, I couldn't agree more, cheers to you!

At the end of the interview, where the conversation goes even deeper into the difficulty of understanding human language: "how do people use language". Ironically, at this moment chattering in the background just builds up and up, making the interview itself a perfect example of the difficulty of filtering the correct sounds in a noisy room to keep your attention to a particular conversation.

I am very curious how Watson will evolve and I definitely enjoyed this article!

Read more: the Jeopardy! Challenge (I don't know why, this one seems to blink away into another page although it is very interesting. Press the STOP button in time!), the DeepQA Project, comparison to Deep Blue, the research team

Edit: Watson makes it to the Belgian news: 15th of February 2011, 18th of February 2011 (in Dutch)

Edit: After a three night marathon on the quiz show Jeopardy, IBM's supercomputer Watson has trounced its two competitors in a televised show pitting human brains against computer bytes. Watson emerged victorious to win a $1million (£622,000) prize: IBM's Watson supercomputer crowned Jeopardy king (BBC, 17th of February 2011)

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