Alumnus brings Watson to campus

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A. Sue Weisler

IBM developer Stephan Roorda ’01 showed off Watson to a packed crowd in the Golisano Hall auditorium.

Answer: A supercomputer capable of answering questions posed in ordinary language that visited RIT in January.

Question: What is IBM’s Watson?

IBM developer Stephan Roorda ’01 (computer science) showed off Watson, which was made famous by its 2011 appearance on the quiz show Jeopardy!, to a packed crowd. After the machine defeated former Jeopardy! champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, IBM began looking for ways to commercialize Watson’s artificial intelligence engine. Watson’s data crunching capabilities could someday be used to help suggest diagnoses to doctors or analyze massive amounts of data for insurance companies.

Students asked the supercomputer about the meaning of life. When Watson came up with answers like Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and exponential decay, Roorda explained that Watson is only able to pull answers from the data it has access to.

Watson did know who had been the head football coach of RIT and Boston College—Tom Coughlin, the current New York Giants coach.

Randy Horwitz ’99 (computer science), manager of IBM’s Extreme Blue internship program, also attended to recruit co-op students.