[Beowulf] IBM's Watson on Jeopardy tonight

David Mathog mathog at caltech.edu
Tue Feb 15 13:55:56 PST 2011

Jim Lux pointed out in an earlier post the reaction time element on
buzzing in from the (invisible to the audience) "go" light.  I only
watched about 10 minutes of this, but my impression was that the machine
did have a reaction time advantage.  Alex T. was a little vague on how
the machine was fed the question and if he explained what its equivalent
of the "go" light is I missed it.  It could be decisive - sending the
entire question to the machine at the instant it became visible to the
humans would give the machine an advantage, since it could digest the
message before the contestants eyes could even track across the first
line of text, let alone until they heard the entire question. In any
case, for the part I watched the machine was beating the humans to the
buzzer pretty consistently.  It was cute, but a little silly, that the
machine had to push the button with a mechanical plunger.  Unless they
built a typical human reaction delay into that mechanism one would
expect the plunger to be much faster than a thumb.

In terms of score/watt the humans had the machine beat by a mile :-).

David Mathog
mathog at caltech.edu
Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech

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