At its surface, this doesn't seem like a big deal. Pack the supercomputer full of trivia answers, wheel it out onto the floor and instantly buzz in with all the answers, right? But as it turns out, this was actually a very daunting task for IBM engineers.
You see, Jeopardy is no ordinary quiz show. Aside from very challenging trivia, the show uses a format which doesn't directly ask a question. Instead, the host reads a brief description of the answer and the user must answer in the form of a question. (For example, Alex Trebek might say "this team won the 2010 World Series" and the contestant would have to answer with "who are the San Francisco Giants?")
Because Jeopardy requires so much analysis and association, it is in fact extremely difficult for a computer to participate in. Rather than simply perform a calculation or reference an index, the computer has to comb the words in the question, figure out the context, associate the words with possible answers, and then figure out the answer.
As such, many people are viewing this as a milestone on par with Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov.
So what's next for IBM in the game world? After all, chess and jeopardy are among the braniest games around, right? As it turns out, the games that are most challenging for computers aren't always that ones that seem to be the hardest for the human mind to catch on to.
For example, there's Go. The Chinese board game has long been considered to be a phenomenal challenge for computers because each move requires a high amount of analysis and calculating the best possible move early on in the game can be extremely difficult for a computer.
On another note, Ken Jennings' cracked a good Simpsons joke and pointed out another area where computers fall short when he wrote in his final answer of the game as "I for one welcome our new computer overlords."
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