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Catching the last few minutes of Wheel of Fortune, I have to wonder what they’re doing to those hosts to keep them so well preserved. No joke: the very first video game I owned, on (whadyaknow?) an IBM computer, was Wheel of Fortune. Most of the gameplay consisted of watching a heavily pixelated Vanna White slowly lurch across the screen.

Call me crazy, but people featured in floppy-disc based video games probably should not still look like starlets.

It just started and right away Trebek is teasing Watson. Careful Trebek — I’m not sure we should be mocking the supercomputer that will probably end up enslaving the human race.

Yay! Ken and Brad are taking my advice and focusing their energies on getting quicker on the buzzer.

First commercial break and everybody has money. I’m feeling better already. I have to say I’m still rooting for the humans, particularly Ken. I’m an old softie like that.

Mr. Max says that IBM’s charity reminds him of when SETI was all about begging volunteers to help them look for aliens. How exactly does someone donate unused computer space for cancer research?

Episode’s Highlight: Ken Jennings says “fiddy cent.”

Final Jeopardy: Everyone got the right answer, but Ken’s answer was far and away the most awesomest. That’s a win in my book.

Observations: Mr. Max noticed that they seem to be careful not to have Watson speak too much — they didn’t have him do the introduction to the charity or remark on his victory even though this could have been easily programmed. Would it have freaked people out too much?

Parting Thoughts: How long has Eggland’s Best been sponsoring Jeopardy? I don’t think I ever think of them outside of the context of Jeopardy.

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Everyone’s getting introduced, even Watson. Ken Jennings is looking chipper as ever.

Quick segue to…IBM research infomercial.

IBM Engineering Dude reminds us that, even though Watson is made of awesome, there are some concepts it (he?) is incapable of understanding. Watson will never…love?

I’m reminded of that episode of ST:TNG where Data creates a “daughter” who can experience emotions, and then she gets sick, and as she’s dying she says, “I love you, Father.”

And then Data says, “I wish I could feel it with you.”

Then his daughter says, “I will feel it for both of us…”

Sniff.

Now the IBM-sters are talking about how tricky it is to get a machine to understand natural language, and that language is kind of at the “heart” of human intelligence. Are we being set up for Watson to take a little fall?

Apparently not; Watson is again off to a strong start, with Ken and Brad left holding the phone.

What does Watson wager for a daily double? Some random ultra-specific number. That’s very Data-like. Wonder if one of the IBM Engineering Dudes is a fan.

The audience is clapping for Watson’s daily double. Hehe.

A Dana Carvey question and Watson is only 98% sure that the answer is “the church lady.” What’s the algorithm for that?

Another IBM ad. Man, they’re really gunning for…funding? Investors? Somethin’.

Toronto??????

This Watson is a tricky one.

This week, Jeopardy is pulling a major stunt and pitting top champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against Watson, an IBM computer. Is this worth blogging? Eh, why not.

It’s starting. They’re giving us background on the tournament and players, and catching up with Ken Jennings, who is apparently impervious to the human aging process. Now they’re explaining how Watson works. Watson is a huge computer designed for the sole purpose of playing Jeopardy. Yeah, sounds like a fair fight.

Now Trebek is explaining what an avatar is to a 7PM game show audience. Wow, the Watson “avatar” sure is hideous — what’s with the mesmerizingly awful pencil scrawl animation? Now we’re going to talk about it for eight minutes.

Okay, okay, the exposition is dragging…

Finally, the game is on.

Watson is off and running. Ken and Brad look kinda bummed. The computer designed for the sole purpose of playing Jeopardy is (predictably) whupping their ass(es). This could be a painful week.

Come on Ken and Brad! Ring in before you know it, then mumble a few vocalized pauses until the answer comes to you! Stoop to techniques lesser contestants have used to their advantage!

Cutaway to a cute little video piece in which a bunch of IBM nerdstra talk about engineering the supercomputer, then giggle over beta-Watson’s weak practice games. Sheesh, all the IBM engineers look really young. I guess we’re supposed to notice that IBM is now a hip young company, like Google or something. Okay, it’s turning into a big IBM commercial.

Phew, back to the action.

Watson just chimed in after Ken Jennings with the same incorrect answer, resulting in a snide correction by Alex Trebek. Good to know that  Alex Trebek is able to insult any contestant, regardless of sentience.

Commercial.

Wait, what? Double and Final Jeopardy tomorrow? Okay kids, we’ll pick this up then.