Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Jeopardy! Strategy Advice To IBM - Introduction

On September 17, 2010, I spent the day at the IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.  I met most of the research team for the Jeopardy! Challenge and discussed several aspects of game play optimization with the strategy team.  I spent most of that day observing six sparring matches between Watson and each possible combination of two human opponents, from a group of four former contestants IBM invited in for the day.  Each of them had been successful on Jeopardy! and competed in the Tournament of Champions.  I took a lot of notes that day and spent a couple weeks thinking about the challenges involved as I wrote a report with my recommendations to IBM.  On October 8, 2010, I sent my report to IBM.

I was told that my report was well received and that it prompted a lot of discussion within the Watson team.  We had some follow up phone calls and e-mails to discuss specific strategy topics, especially after it was revealed that the Jeopardy! Challenge would consist of two matches in the format of a tournament final, with Watson facing Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.  In early January 2011, I was invited back to the Watson Research Lab to play eight practice matches against the final version of Watson, as a final tune up.  I was also in the live audience that watched the taping of Watson's televised matches against Ken and Brad.

On Saturday, July 9, 2011, I will join Jeopardy! legends Bob Harris and Ken Jennings on a panel discussion at the Trivia Championships of North America at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas ( ).  One of the main topics will be Jeopardy! strategy and how human contestants on the show can learn from the research done by the IBM Watson team.  To provide background and prompt further discussion, I am using this blog to publicly release my initial advice to IBM, based on what I knew and observed on my initial visit last fall.  Since then, I have learned that IBM's researchers implemented many of my ideas in a far more sophisticated way than the basic concepts I suggested in my report.  More than three years of work had already been done before I was asked to share my ideas, so most of my input independently confirmed what was already being done.  However I was pleased to see that one of my ideas for Daily Double wagering was added to the final version of Watson, and some of my other ideas would be too subtle to know for sure whether they were used in Watson or not.

The next several posts in this blog will be the text of the report I sent to IBM on October 8, 2010.  It is divided into separate parts for each topic.

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