IBM, having already come up with a computer that can beat the world's best chess players, is gearing up for another challenge.
The US computer giant on Monday announced it was developing a computer to compete with humans on the popular US television quiz show Jeopardy!
IBM said its scientists have been working for nearly two years on an advanced computing system codenamed "Watson" -- after IBM founder Thomas Watson, not Sherlock Holmes's sidekick.
It said the scientists believe "Watson" will be able to eventually compete on Jeopardy!, a TV show in which contestants provide question-formatted answers to clues on history, literature, politics, film, pop culture and science.
IBM said Jeopardy! would pose a stiff challenge for a computing system because the clues given to the human contestants involve "analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities."
"The essence of making decisions is recognizing patterns in vast amounts of data, sorting through choices and options, and responding quickly and accurately," IBM chairman Samuel Palmisano said.
"Watson will be designed to do all of this in a matter of seconds, which will enable it to compete against humans, who have the ability to know what they know in less than a second," IBM said.
An IBM computer named Deep Blue defeated then-world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a celebrated man-versus-machine match in 1997.
Developing a computer to compete at Jeopardy! however may be an even more difficult proposition than defeating the world's top grandmasters.
"The challenge is to build a system that, unlike systems before it, can rival the human mind's ability to determine precise answers to natural language questions and to compute accurate confidences in the answers," said David Ferrucci, leader of IBM's Watson project team.
"This confidence processing ability is key. It greatly distinguishes the IBM approach from conventional search, and is critical to implementing useful business applications of question answering (QA).
"Progress on the underlying QA technologies enabling Watson will be important in the quest to understand and build 'intelligent computing systems' capable of cooperating with humans in language-related tasks previously out of reach for computers," he added.
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