Watson Computer Crushes Humans in Night Three of 'Jeopardy!' Challenge

IBM's computer Watson trounces humans in night three of "Jeopardy!" challenge.

February 17, 2011, 9:44 AM

Feb. 17, 2011— -- Move over mortals, the machines are on their way.

In the three-day man vs. machine "Jeopardy!" challenge, all-time champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter made an impressive showing. But, ultimately, it was IBM's super-computer Watson that won the top prize.

After the final round Wednesday night, Watson's three-day score was $77,147, while Jennings took second place with $24,000 and Rutter came in third with $21,600.

In writing his "Final Jeopardy" answer, Jennings added this final quip: "I for one welcome our new computer overlords."

For winning the event, Watson wins $1 million, which IBM plans to donate to charities World Vision and World Community Grid.

Jennings and Rutter win $300,000 and $200,000, respectively, and each has said that they will donate half their winnings to charities of their choosing.

In the final round of the three-night match-up, the humans made a better a showing than they did Tuesday night, when Watson dominated the board for most of the half-hour program. Jennings took an early lead, but was later overtaken by Watson, which quickly ratcheted up its winnings to $41,413 for the night (Jennings won $19,200 and Rutter took in $11,200).

Tuesday night, the computer left its human competition in the dust, with a nearly $25,000 lead over second-place Rutter.

Despite its strong performance on Tuesday's show, it did leave the audience with a bit of a head-scratcher.

During Final Jeopardy, the trio was presented with the clue: "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle."

Rutter and Jennings successfully answered "Chicago," but Watson offered the iffy "Toronto?????" The response was even more curious, considering the category was "U.S. Cities."

In an explanation on its blog, IBM said that even its own developers were puzzled by the mistake.

David Ferrucci, the manager of the Watson project at IBM Research, said that several factors likely confused the machine. For starters, not only was the category name ("U.S. Cities") not included in the actual clue, Watson has been trained to downgrade the significance of the category because answers don't always exactly fit the category.

Ferrucci also said that Watson might have been thrown off because there are some cities named Toronto in the United States and even Toronto, Canada, includes a U.S. Major League Baseball team. Still, he added, the mistake wasn't entirely discouraging because Watson had little faith in its answer, registering a 30 percent confidence level.

Ultimately, the machine's wrong answer barely left a dent in its total winnings because Watson cleverly wagered only $947.

IBM's Watson gives one look at smart machines, click HERE for a few more.

The matchup, which was taped in January, aired on national television for the first time Monday night and wrapped up Wednesday night.

Humanity Wins Regardless of Outcome

For the past four years, top artificial intelligence researchers at IBM have been preparing their mega-machine, Watson to compete on "Jeopardy!" against all-time champions Jennings and Rutter.

In interviews with ABCNews.com last week, Jennings and Rutter said that regardless of the outcome, no one really loses.

"Ken and I are representing humanity in this thing but, at the same time, Watson was developed, built, programmed by human beings," said Rutter. "So I think humanity wins no matter what happens."

And beyond even that, Jennings said that playing the world's most sophisticated computer gave him a new appreciation for the humble human brain.

"I was impressed at the end that the human brain -- just a few dollars worth of water and salt and protein and whatever else we have in our skulls -- that that could hang in there and play at the same level as this jillion-dollar computer the size of a room," he said. "It says a lot for the human brain that with what we have we can hang with the world's most powerful computer. It's sort of a newfound respect for what our heads can do, which we take for granted sometimes."

The Associated Press contributed to the report.