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The Top 20 Tech Stories of 2011


20
What is Robot Superiority, Alex?

The mad geniuses over at IBM enjoy a challenge. In the past, they've taken on tasks such as spelling out IBM with individual atoms or building a computer capable of defeating a grandmaster chess champion. But in 2011, they really surprised us when they introduced Watson on national television. The supercomputer competed on the game show "Jeopardy!"

Named after a father and son duo who both led IBM in the past, Watson was the product of a project that lasted several years. The goal was to create a computer that could answer questions posed in natural language. Most computers can only respond to specific instructions -- venture outside those parameters and the computer will be stumped. That's not the case with Watson.

Watson relied on 90 IBM servers with a total of 2,880 processing cores to analyze clues and come up with possible responses. The computer could weigh potential answers, judging them against each other in order to come up with the most likely candidate. The computer faced two former "Jeopardy!" champions and won.

While Watson was successful, and it seems that computers have beaten us at yet another game, we find it comforting that it required so much computational horsepower for Watson to put up a fight against mere mortals. And we can still beat it at Twister!