Machine Beats Man: IBM's Watson Wins First Game of 'Jeopardy!' Challenge

Chalk up another victory for machines. An IBM supercomputer intellectually overpowered its two human rivals on Tuesday's highly anticipated broadcast of the TV game show, Jeopardy.

In the second day of this closely watched, three-day, two-game Jeopardy! challenge, Big Blue's (IBM) Watson captured $35,734 in winnings to take the first game. Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter, who has show's highest game earnings, tied for first with Watson when the first game started on Monday. He also racked up another $10,400 in winnings for his second-place showing. The other flesh-and-blood contestant, Ken Jennings, landed $4,800 in winnings. But his third-place finish puts his record for Jeopardy!'s longest winning streak in, well. . . jeopardy.

Landslide Victory Equals TV Good Ratings

"Watson won by a landslide," says Dwayne Stice, programming assistant for WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky. Stice's station is one of a handful in the U.S. Central Time Zone that broadcasts Jeopardy! in the early afternoon -- giving his audience a head start over the rest of the U.S. market when it comes to watching the event. "It was amazing to see just how domineering the computer was. The other contestants buzzed-in very little during the episode."

According to Stice, the first game was a humbling experience for mankind. But Watson has been good for CBS (CBS), which produces Jeopardy!. A CBS spokesperson says Watson's Monday appearance scored the show's best single-day performance in four years -- with an 8.7 household rating in metered markets. And according to the spokesperson, that's a 24% increase from the show's 7 rating during February last year.

Final Showdown on Wednesday

This highly publicized showdown has also helped Big Blue showcase Watson -- whose banks of computers allow it to process roughly the equivalent of 1 million books of information per second. For the moment, Watson has proved electrodes can move faster than the human brain's gray matter. The computer's win comes despite the clever strategy Rutter and Jennings had prepared to trip Watson up, by selecting categories that dealt with abstract concepts and short cues.

Rutter and Jennings will face off Watson for the Final Jeopardy match on Wednesday -- setting the stage for humankind to either claim victory over machines or encounter a sobering wake-up call. Eager viewers wanting to grab a glimpse of the final results as soon as possible should contact friends and family who reside in some of Central Time Zone states, and TV markets, that broadcast Jeopardy! early in the day.

Here's a list of stations that air Jeopardy at 11 a.m. CST:
  • KLTV-TV, Tyler-Longview, Texas
  • KCBD-TV, Lubbock, Texas
  • KATV-TV, Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.
  • WTOK-TV, Meridian, Miss.
  • WLOV-TV, Columbus-Tupelo-West Point, Miss.
  • WBBJ-TV, Jackson, Tenn.

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If the answers are communicated to Watson electronically, that would explain why Watson was able to click first. Are they?

February 16 2011 at 6:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I will challenge Watson to a sledge hammer fight. I will accept any odds.

February 16 2011 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you watch closely you will see that both human contestants also knew the questions but the reaction time to press the button is clearly where Watson is winning. Probably faster than any human can do it.

February 16 2011 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought ABC was the network responsible for Jeopardy? Here in New York it's on our ABC channel.

February 16 2011 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rae Lindsay

i'm a long time jeopardy fan (and won four times as a player), and i knew many of the answers watson knew. i'm sure ken and brad did too. i don't think that warson knew more than ken and brad - it's just that he was able to click in FASTER! - and that's the key to winning. so yeah - watson is one smart dude, but he's faster on the trigger than his opponents. still - can't diminish how astounding this entire feat is - and watson even sounds likeable. i mean he doesn't have that characteristic robot voice. a new era, certainment!

February 16 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what IBM is trying to show is that we can use "artificial intelligence" to our advantage. for example; if you take a couple of "watsons" and link them together in the medical field, you would have answers to questions that would take years to find by humans. this could speed up knowledge and discoveries in medicine that could benefit everybody today instead of years away. i think the jeopardy show has proved that. who would'nt want tommorow's science today?

February 16 2011 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Would like to see the out come of Watson against China's new super computer.

February 16 2011 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is the "victory"?! The "computer" is "loaded" with infinite data designed by many, many highly-degreed humans vs two finite humans and then have the audacity to compete? Isn't this comparing the proverbial apples and oranges?

February 16 2011 at 12:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

This was a commercial for IBM and like all commercials very boring.Stupid just stupid.

February 16 2011 at 12:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to harolddundee's comment

I agree. Give me the choice of three answers and I could get the right one everytime. Where were the women in the audience?

February 16 2011 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Next they ought to have a Texas Instruments a Hewlett Packard and an IBM battle it out electrode to electrode...and it can be for your laptop to watch! It is pure baloney there is no element of competition...the sheer stupidity of this seems antithetical to the game of jeopardy...what will Watson do with it's winnings? Get a lube job?

February 16 2011 at 12:28 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply