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Humans to face IBM supercomputer on “Jeopardy!”

Brookhaven National Laboratory
via Flickr

Computers are getting smarter. It’s a fact humans have had to live with since Deep Blue beat Kasparov at chess. And now the machines are taking over one of the last bastions of human dominance: Jeopardy!

"Watson," the IBM supercomputer named after the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., will take on two Jeopardy! champions in February.

Jeopardy! producers told the New York Times that "Watson" has been practicing:

'Jeopardy' producers said the computer qualified for the show by passing the same test that human contestants must pass. Lately 'Watson' has been playing games with former 'Jeopardy' contestants for practice.

But will "Watson" come out on top? The folks at IBM aren't quite sure, according to research manager Eric Brown in a recent CNET News interview:

"We are very confident that Watson will be competitive. However, the exhibition match is just two games, and anything can happen. Watson (or any player, for that matter) could get [unlucky] with the categories or the Daily Doubles. This is another reason why we played the sparring matches to create a record over a much larger set of games."

At stake: a $1 million prize. What does a supercomputer do with human money? Turns out that if the humans win, half the prize money goes to charity.  If "Watson" wins, the entire pot will be donated to charity.

The Innovation Trail is rooting for the humans. You can tune in to see if you’re obsolete when the matches are broadcast on February 14, 15 and 16.

Innovation Trail alumnus Dan Bazile is former reporter for WMHT in Albany. He has covered a wide range of topics, from town board meetings, to the September 11th terrorist attacks.