IBM’s super computer “Watson” became the first-ever machine contestant to win “Jeopardy,” allowing IBM to donate half the prize money to Christian aid agency World Vision.
“Watson,” named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, beat out celebrated champions Ken Jennings – who won 74 games in a row on “Jeopardy” in 2004 to 2005 – and Brad Rutter – who is the record-holder for the most cumulative money won on the game show at $3.2 million.
The three-day competition was taped in January at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Laboratory in New York. But the show was televised this week in three episodes, with the final segment airing on Wednesday.
The success of “Watson” on the popular game show was a breakthrough for artificial intelligence researchers. The supercomputer was built so that it can respond to questions posed in natural language. “Jeopardy’s” game format requires analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities that traditionally humans have excelled at and computers falter in.
IBM had announced in January that 100 percent of its $1 million prize from “Jeopardy” would go to charity. Half went to World Vision and the other half went to World Community Grid, a nonprofit that seeks to build the world’s largest public computing grid benefiting humanity.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of this exciting event in IBM's history," said Caroline Riseboro of World Vision Canada in a statement. "IBM leads in the areas of technology and innovation, and we hope we can together continue to make a tangible difference in lives of children all over the world."
In 2002, “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek had traveled with World Vision Canada to Uganda. He has remained involved with World Vision ever since, often appearing in the organization’s television shows.
Jennings, who won second place, and Rutter, who placed third, also pledged to donate half of their earnings from the show with “Watson” to charity. The second place winner got $300,000, while the third place winner received $200,000.