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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