Watson is an AI system designed to answer natural language questions. It trounced the human competition in a special edition of Jeopardy!, and its first real-world application will involve healthcare data.
Did you know?
The minimum system requirements needed to run Watson involve a server that costs $1 million.
In 2011, IBM unveiled Watson, an AI computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language. The machine was built as part of IBM's DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson first demonstrated its natural-language processing powers on "Jeopardy!," a game that employs puns and wordplay in its trivia clues. For each clue, Watson had to make sense of the messy English language, parse complicated phrasing, and search through up to 200 million pages of text. After a lackluster Day 1 debut, Watson completely dominated the game on Day 2, except for a now-infamous "What is Toronto?????" mistake. On Day 3, Watson confirmed its superiority by defeating human "Jeopardy!" superchampions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter by a wide margin. As Jennings put it afterwards, "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." However, despite a US $1 billion investment, IBM's attempts at commercializing Watson weren't as successful as its game show performance. In health care, Watson demonstrated some early promising results, but larger deployments failed to impress doctors and struggled to turn a profit. In January 2022, IBM announced it was selling off its Watson Health assets.