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April 20, 2012

How does Watson work?

Filed under: Work Related — Ivan Herman @ 10:14
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A partially revealed Jeopardy! Round board in ...

I was at Chris Welty’s keynote yesterday at the WWW2012 Conference. His talk was on Jeopardy/Watson and, although this is not the first time I heard/saw something on Watson, some things really became clear only at his keynote. Namely: what is really the central paradigm that made the question answering mechanism so successful in the case of Watson?

Well… query answering in Watson is not some sort of a deterministic algorithm that turns a natural language question into a query into a huge set of data. This approach does not work. Instead, a question is analyzed and, based on search in various set of data, a large set of possible answers is extracted. These “candidate” answers are analyzed separately along a whole series of different dimensions (geographical or temporal dimensions, or, which I found the most interesting, putting back candidate answers into the original question and search that again against various sources of information to rank them again). The result is a vector of numerical values representing the results of the analysis along those different dimensions. That “vector” is summed up into one final value using a weight values for each dimension. The weights themselves are obtained through a prior training process (in this case using a number of stored Jeopardy question/answers). Finally, the answer with the highest value (I presume over a certain threshold value) is returned.

I hope I got it right:-). But the mechanism is certainly something like that. And it is interesting: it is different from the traditional question/answer approaches which is, usually, much more “deterministic”. This is some sort of a new computing paradigm (not necessarily invented by the Watson team, but used by them). Is it a really important new paradigm? Well… to quote Chris: “We won!”.

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3 Comments

  1. I remember watching a short documentary about it. They also had Watson analyze and index its database for the differences people the 5 W cases so that it could ask the right question for the points. I don’t remember whether or not it knew the difference between fact or fiction but I’m not sure it needed to.

    Comment by Andrew — April 20, 2012 @ 19:39

  2. […] Herman recently offered some insight into how Watson actually works. Herman reports, “I was at Chris Welty’s keynote yesterday at the WWW2012 Conference. His […]

    Pingback by How Watson Works - semanticweb.com — April 24, 2012 @ 0:01

  3. […] Herman recently offered some insight into how Watson actually works. Herman reports, “I was at Chris Welty’s keynote yesterday at the WWW2012 Conference. His […]

    Pingback by How Watson Works « Microformats & the semanantic web — April 24, 2012 @ 4:01


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