IBM Supercomputer to Take on 'Jeopardy!' Champs

11:14 PM PST 12/13/2010 by Kimberly Nordyke

System dubbed 'Watson' will challenge Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in three episodes airing in February.

Will an IBM supercomputer be any match for the two winningest players in Jeopardy! history?

The company and the game show's producers aim to find out in February, according to the New York Times.

IBM and Jeopardy! are expected to announce Tuesday that the computer -- dubbed "Watson" after company founder Thomas J. Watson Sr. -- will face off against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in three episodes scheduled to air Feb. 14-16.

At stake is a $1 million prize. If the computer wins, it will all be donated to charity; if Jennings or Rutter triumphs, half of the money will be given away.

IBM scientists have reportedly been working on a computer program designed to compete against Jeopardy! contestants for at least two years. In a news release quoted by the Times, the companies said the show's format is "the ultimate challenge" for "Watson" because "the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not."

But don't assume the computer had an easy time getting on the show: It apparently had to pass the same tests used to qualify human contestants.

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