Friday, February 18, 2011

More Follow-up From Watson

A sampling of four new articles following upon on Watson's victory in Jeopardy!

Professor Oren Etzioni, the director of the UW Turing Center, on the match:
It didn't surprise me that Watson won. In fairness there are some small things in the game that give it an advantage, like the time that it has to process -- it sees the clue instantly, it gets transmitted via text, and then it's told when it can buzz in. So it has a number of these small advantages and particularly last night it was often winning on time.

Watson as the beginning of a new kind of search engine?
Etzioni says he expects natural-language software to make a big dent in search applications over the next five years, although at the moment systems such as Watson aren't ready for 'prime time': he notes that Microsoft bought a natural-language processing company called Powerset in 2008 for US$100 million, "but you don't see Microsoft using it in any visible way". Kautz agrees that systems as broad and powerful as Watson could be available for general use "surprisingly soon. Let's say three to four years."

Ken Jennings on his Watson experience:
I expected Watson's bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer's techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson's case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words.

Gary Kasparov on playing chess alongside - rather than against - a computer:
Having a computer partner also meant never having to worry about making a tactical blunder. The computer could project the consequences of each move we considered, pointing out possible outcomes and countermoves we might otherwise have missed. With that taken care of for us, we could concentrate on strategic planning instead of spending so much time on calculations.

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