“Watson,” an IBM supercomputer, is about to show the world how quickly it can come up with an answer in the form of a question.

A hardware and software system named Watson is playing a “Jeopardy!” practice round Thursday against the greatest champions in the quiz show’s history – Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. (Read LTW’s Dec. 14 report with more details about the showdown here.

For whom – or what – will IBM’s some 10,000 workers in the Triangle area be rooting?

A full game with a $1 million prize will be recorded later and televised next month.

If Watson wins, IBM says the proceeds will go to charity.

The real showdown is set to be televised Feb. 14, according to IBM.

The computer is challenging Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Jennings won 74 consecutive “Jeopardy!” games. Rutter won $3 million.

IBM says the computer rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language, not computer code. Unlike earlier computers, it can deal with “Jeopardy’s!” subtleties of language, including puns and riddles.

“IBM is not in the entertainment business,” says IBM Research Program Manager David Shepler. “But we are in the business of technology and pushing frontiers.”

The practice round takes place at an IBM facility north of New York City. “Jeopardy!” is based in Culver City, Calif.

For more about the IBM project, read here.

Watch an IBM video about the showdown at YouTube

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