The Face of Watson

So IBM Research have been building on Watson (a version of Deep Blue and Deep Thought)

Deep Thought
Deep Thought was a creation of IBM research and in 1989 it had won the Sixth World Computer Chess Championship before playing chess champion Gary Kasparov. Kasparov, considered by many to be the greatest chess mind ever, had little trouble beating Deep Thought.

Deep Blue
In 1996, Deep Blue (the upgraded Deep Thought), played Kasparov again. While the machine put up a better fight, man won again.

However, in May 1997 Deep Blue and Kasparov would meet again. This time, Deep Blue would lose the first match of the series, then draw the next three, and finally beat Kasparov in the fifth game, giving the chess-playing computer an unheard of defeat against a legendary chess champion.

Watson (loads more from IBM here)

Now 4 years later Watson is playing Jeopardy LIVE on US television with two past champions. Brad Rutter, who won $3.3 million playing the popular TV trivia contest, and Ken Jennings, who was victorious in 74 games of “Jeopardy!”. Watson is made up of 90 IBM servers and has access to hundreds of millions of documents in its memory banks.

This is all pretty amazing.

This is a computer that has a local version of Wikipedia and can analyze it in less than 4 seconds. But it can also do that 20 question thing, where like in quantum physics doesn’t divide potential answer down until it gets the right one, it just keeps computing each and every worked and potential answer it gets the right one.

But things get more interesting, well to me.

Joshua Davies (one time Flash advocative) was chosen to design the “avatar” for Watson.

This is a tele program so it had to have a face. of course big smart fella. you can’t just be a box with a flashing LED.  So with all that computing power it ran a flash variant, and a component written by Joshua himself called HYPE:  The swarm is an actual swarm behavior over the surface of a sphere. Programmed by Automata Studios

In true corporate form, IBM decided that Watson’s face should look like its own Smarter Planet logo. Davis took the globe motif and added a swarm of particles — a single “leader” chased by the others — to spin around on the globe’s surface, indicating that Watson is “thinking.”


Joshua Davis’s designs were implemented by Automata Studios.


Watson uses a slew of complicated algorithms to parse every “Jeopardy!” clue, gather possible answers, and weight each guess according to how “confident” it is that the guess is correct. Davis visually represents these patterns in 27 possible states that the avatar can be in. Generally, when Watson is confident in its guess, the particles swarm to the top of the globe and glow green; when Watson is not confident, they flow to the bottom and glow orange. And while Alex Trebek is making chitchat at the podium or reading off clues, the avatar pulses a cool IBM blue.


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