IBM has been developing an AI system that can "understand" and answer questions. Dubbed "Watson", in honour of the company's founder Thomas J. Watson, it is able to parse a question given in natural language (i.e. in english), and to find answers in its gigantic databases.
To push this a step further, the DeepQA team, lead by Dr. David Ferrucci, developed it into a form that can play Jeopardy!, namely, understand the question and context, look for possible answers, select the most plausible and present it as a question.
And that under 3 seconds.
For example, in a video on the Jeopardy! page, the question was "As Juliet knows, this 9-letter word means 'why'". Watson correctly answered "What is wherefore?". In order to respond correctly, it had to determine that:
- The expected answer is to be found in Romeo and Juliet
- The expected answer is a 9-letter word
- The expected answer has to mean "why"
On February 14,15 and 16, Watson will play in front of the audience in a real Jeopardy! From the news, it already beat the two best players during free games. I guess the real show will be extremely exciting to watch.
Direct link to the Jeopardy! minisite on Watson
More information on Watson from IBM