IBM will collaborate with several universities to advance the Watson artificial intelligence project.

The robot, which can answer specific Jeopardy! style trivia questions, will compete against the show's top performers Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter next week in a trio of episodes.

The fun won't end there. IBM said it will work with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern California, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SUNY Albany, the University of Trento in Italy, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Carnegie Mellon University to teach Watson new skills.

At the center of the Watson creation is Question Answering (QA) technology. IBM said the technology uses breakthrough analytics to understand what is being asked, analyze massive amounts of data, and provide the best answer based on the evidence it finds. The PBS show Nova documented the four-year process in which Watson was created and the struggles it endured.

We are glad to be collaborating with such distinguished universities and experts in their respective fields who can contribute to the advancement of QA technologies that are the backbone of the IBM Watson system. The success of the Jeopardy! challenge will break barriers associated with computing technology's ability to process and understand human language, and will have profound effects on science, technology and business, Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the IBM Watson project team, said in a statement.

Like many of the other collaborating universities, Carnegie Mellon will assist in the development of the Open Advancement of Question-Answering Initiative (OAQA) architecture and methodology. This includes a source expansion algorithm identifying the best text resources for answering questions about given topic and an answer-scoring algorithm.

Applying QA technology to the real-time Jeopardy! problem is an important challenge for the field because it requires a system to respond more quickly and with a level of confidence that has not been possible to-date, Carnegie Mellon University professor Eric Nyberg said in a statement.  Jeopardy! requires forms of reasoning that are quite sophisticated, using metaphors, puns, and puzzles that go beyond basic understanding of the language. As a challenge problem, Jeopardy! will stretch the state of the art.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst team will work on information retrieval, or text search. The team of researchers from the University at Albany will develop an interactive QA capability for sustained investigation. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute team will work on a visualization component that will show how Watson uses massively parallel analytics to form a human like response. The Trento researchers will look at machine learning, question answering and conversational agents.

The research will hope to give Watson more uses than simply dominating on Jeopardy! IBM said it hopes Watson will transform the way businesses and society work and improve many industries, and even assist in research.

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