If that is the answer, what is the question? Perhaps "How difficult is it for a computer to compete in the game of 'Jeopardy!'?"
That's exactly what IBM's coolest yet Power Systems application will do. In the contest (Feb. 14-16, 2011), which uses the most advanced Question Answering (QA) application (called DeepQA) yet devised, IBM's Watson will compete head-to-head against two of the "Jeopardy!" show's most famous champions--Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson will answer the questions by voice and will even press its own button to buzz in. How cool is that? Watson will receive the questions via text interface (i.e., it will not be interpreting vocal questions) but other than that, the computer competes exactly like Ken and Brad. It will not be connected to the internet to research answers. All the knowledge used during the show must already be in the system's database.
In developing the Watson software, the IBM team confronted head-on what has to be the biggest challenge in the world of software development--building software capable of correctly interpreting natural language. The questions (or should we say answers) in "Jeopardy!" contain many examples of the kinds of ambiguity found in everyday language that have challenged computer scientists for years. If Watson can indeed win at "Jeopardy!" against two of the best players to ever participate in the game, it will represent a huge step forward in the science of natural-language processing.
Why should we as an IBM i community be interested in this, other than the fact that it is just plain cool? Well, Watson runs on a cluster of Power 750 systems--the very same Power 750 processors some of you may be using to run your business applications. It does have the advantage of some very sophisticated QA software that you won't have, however. Developed over many years, Watson is one of the more visible results coming out of some of IBM's research and development teams.
Of course, what would be even cooler is if we could tell you that Watson was running IBM i and written in RPG using DB2 for i. Sorry, can't do that. Watson runs Linux. But then, when's the last time you had a business need for your computer system to compete in a game show? If only a game show about producing payroll checks or processing invoices existed. ...
Even so, we'll have Tivo set up to record Watson's "Jeopardy!" games, for sure (we never watch anything live--that's just so pre-Tivo). It should be tons of fun to think "that's a Power Systems server doing that."
IBM has a website that provides more information. If like us you have problems with the Flash videos on the site you can find them in the IBM channel at YouTube. Start with this one and you'll see the links to the other videos.
One last "Jeopardy!" clue for you: "IBM's founder." The question is "Who is Watson named after?" Nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes--neither the original nor the new one.