Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Watson 

By now you know that IBM's Watson kicked ass on Jeopardy. It's interesting to hear how people were either rooting for or against the computer. What I found more interesting was how the other contestants, and the host Alex Trebek, seemed to react to "Watson". Of course, what they were reacting to was not the box housing the equipment, wires and logic boards but a monitor displaying an active graphic relating Watson's "thoughts". From the display you could see the computer "thinking" and it's "confidence". In reality, it's displaying an algorithm that shows the computer working on the problem and relating the projected probability of correctness. What's brilliant about this Joshua Davis creation is that it in no way looks like a face (spheroidal, sure, but not a face). I think if people did relate to the machine, it was simply because it had an expression and that's what made the connection.



Contrast Watson to IBM's Big Blue — who in their right mind wanted a faceless, Fascistic monolith to defeat a person, or even any weird Robert Zemeckis digital zombie and it's immediately obvious just how Watson's "face" is so engaging. Watson is so much more personable than HAL, even if it does share the same snarky tone and dark threat to defeat all human counterparts.

via the FastCo Design Blog

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