I.B.M. has been working on a project called DeepQA. The aim of the project is to create a computer system that can answer questions that contain “natural language“. This computer would be able to respond to questions rather than locate information or phrases through keyword searching. This is reminiscent of the Voight-Kampff machine from Blade Runner whereby “emotionally provocative questions” were posed to determine if the respondent was a machine.
To test Watson’s ability, researchers had the computer compete in a Jeopardy simulation against human opponents. Former contestants were brought to lab to compete against the computer. Although Watson did make some mistakes and the test did reveal some programming challenges that lie ahead, the computer did win several games.
The New York Times also has an interactive feature where you can compete against Watson.