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Editor’s note: Members of IBM Watson’s algorithms team Dr. Bill Murdock and Dr. Aditya Kalyanpur will write about Watson’s answers to some of the Jeopardy! clues throughout the three-day rebroadcast, September 12-14.

William Wilkinson’s “An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia” inspired this author’s most famous novel.

Dr. Aditya KalyanpurAditya: Dracula, the wrong answer (and the novel referred to in the clue), was Watson’s second-strongest response option at 40 percent confidence. Dracula beat Bram Stoker on overall popularity (Dracula is mentioned more often in Watson’s stored text), and other document support (Dracula documents matches the keywords in the clue better than the Bram Stoker documents).

But the evidence profile shows Bram Stoker gets a big edge over Dracula since he’s an author – and passage scoring such as “Bram Stoker’s novel” align grammatically with “this author’s … novel.”

“Author” received the most weight because it was the type of response the clue was looking for. Dracula lines up with “novel,” actually helped Watson’s confidence in Bram Stoker, too.

The science behind the answer

YouTube Preview Image


“Million dollar baby” & “Unforgiven”.

Dr. Bill MurdockBill: Watson knew the correct responses for all the clues in this category, but never buzzed in because it takes Watson one-and-a-half to six seconds to respond to any clue – not fast enough on short clues like these to beat Ken or Brad (explained more in yesterday’s post).

Watson could have been configured to be faster by having it consider fewer answers or less evidence for each answer, but its accuracy would have suffered.

Read more about how Watson sees, hears and speaks.


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Dr. Aditya KalyanpurAditya: Watson didn’t have high confidence on any of the clues in this category.

Watson didn’t understand that the answer term had two different meanings: one, a kind of computer key; the other, the text of the clue. It therefore used a combination of the category and clue as input to the search process, and hence got passages that only weakly matched one to the other.

In this case, the weight of the evidence preferred “linebacker” to “end,” but only at 20 percent confidence.

Video: I want the answer

YouTube Preview Image

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