Watson Sparring Matches: Gender Identification

The IBM Research team that designed Watson, the computer system that can play Jeopardy!, faced many hurdles in teaching the system the nuances of human language. Often a clue will ask for a gender specific response. Human contestants quickly pick up on these cues, but Watson initially struggled with this concept. The team made great strides in correcting this during its sparring matches against former champions.

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21 thoughts on “Watson Sparring Matches: Gender Identification

  1. @mrennie25 I think the programmers are currently more concerned about perfecting their system before introducing some human interaction skills and manners. It seems there's still a few problems with Watson that take a higher priority. In all likelihood, I can see them adding that kind of functionality later, though.

  2. @mrennie25 That would be cool, but impossible because he can't hear anything. They send him the questions in a text. In a couple years they'll have it actually listening and responding I bet.

  3. @mrennie25 He does say "Let's finish up [category]" sometimes and "please" and a few other words varying from "What is". I am fairly certain that he hears and/or sees the questions, so some degree of dynamic interaction is possible.

  4. @mrennie25 Or if they laugh at him he could become threatening "Laugh while you can…[bleep].humans." I'm sure people would start jumping yelling "woah that wasn't in the program!" trying to shut Watson down.

  5. @mrennie25 While that would be cool, Watson currently does not receive the questions aurally. Rather, a text file is sent to Watson at the same time the question is read.

  6. @youngonewun I wouldn't even go as far as saying "in a couple of years" but rather "whenever they feel like implementing it". Speech recognition is quite far already (as it first appeared roughly 20 years ago in the consumer market), but still is a very complex task. Not that Watson isn't already extremely complex, but physically quite small actually (I've seen a former IBM supercomputer in 2003 which wouldn't even fit the jeopary studio and had roughly 1/15th of the performance).

  7. @mrennie25 yeah it would be kind of cool if he could have different voices too – Christopher Walken for sounding surprised and Robert Deniro for when he's pissed off!

  8. @mrennie Except that he can't hear them at all. Only gets his clues from a txt document -_-
    Voice integration is what I'd add…

  9. The second group of questions all had gender specific pronouns and other hints, while several of the questions in the first group did not.

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