Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter were Jeopardy-winning machines. They had accumulated a net sum of over $5 million in winnings from the television quiz show Jeopardy. They were the best players the show had produced over its decades-long lifetime. Or so they had thought.
Jeopardy is a classic game show, where the answers are given first, and the contestants supply the questions. Three contestants, including the previous champion, compete in six categories in three rounds
In 2011, the show introduced a new opponent. They agreed to an exhibition match against the unseen opponent who had never before contested in the quiz. He was kept in a back room, while his answers were announced into the studio. By the second episode, the unknown opponent had $25,000 more than his closest opponent, Rutter.
In the end, when curtains came down- Jennings and Rutter, to Watson; a room-sized machine made by IBM and named after Thomas J Watson. It was kept back stage- away from human contestants because of the roars of its cooling system.
With this landslide win at Jeopardy, IBM is now exploring Watson’s other possible uses. It was created around 2006, while the IBM research exes were looking for a grand challenge. Apart from this beast machine, the “Grand Challenges” lead to the creation of Deep Blue; the machine responsible for defeating grand master Garry Kasparov at chess. Another creation was the Blue Gene supercomputer.
So, what made the mega-minds at IBM create Watson? Well, it was Charles Lickel- inspired after a hefty dinner with his team. He took the challenge to build a supercomputer capable of winning the quiz show. His team had doubts back then. They didn't believe that a machine competing against a man would be fair.
"They initially said no, it's a silly project to work on, it's too gimmicky, it's not a real computer science test, and we probably can't do it anyway," said Horn Paul Horn, then director of IBM Research. Nevertheless, a team was formed to take up the challenge,
For that, IBM developed DeepQA, an unparalled decoding software that could examine natural language and break down the clues set by Jeopardy and in Watson's own stored data. Watson was not allowed to connect to the Internet during the quiz. Ideas on Watson business unit began not long after the Jeopardy show aired. In August of 2011, the Watson business unit properly came into being, headed up by Manoj Saxena. Healthcare had already been suggested as the first industry Watson. Watson could ingest, understand huge amounts of data and process them much quicker than its humans. Healthcare might have been a start but banking, insurance, and telecoms would see much of Watson as well.
To get the Jeopardy-Watson to Oncology-Watson, modifications were needed such as content adaptation, training adaptation, and functional adaptation. The machine was fed with crucial medical information while testing it out with some practice questions. Soon by 2012, there were two healthcare organisations that had started piloting Watson.
So Watson became the first of its kind to be an oncologist's assistant, digesting reams of data - MSKCC's own, medical journals, articles, patients’ notes and more. Unlike its Jeopardy counterpart, healthcare Watson also has the ability to go online. However, when Watson was allowed to use Urban Dictionary, it answered a researcher’s query with the word “bullshit”. Therefore that access was removed immediately. "We did find some interesting responses, so we had to shut that down," Saxena said diplomatically. "That is not to be repeated, because it would be seen as very improper in certain cases, and we had to teach Watson the right business behaviour."
Watson has made its place in banking. Citi Bank is using Watson to their customer services. It won’t be long until Apps with Watsons influence come about, predicts Forbes.
IBM seeks to put in Watson's capabilities into as many products as they can.