IBM reveals secrets of Watson’s Jeopardy triumph

Iain Thomson:

IBM has explained the principles behind how its Watson machine bested the world’s finest Jeopardy players, even if it can’t handle Siri.
In a lecture at the University of California at Berkeley, IBM research scientist Eric Brown outlined the history of the project, and provided some details about how Watson was able to sort through a variety of structured and unstructured data in the fastest time possible. His team of 30 engineers spent four years designing the current system, and believe it has great potential for non-gimmicky purposes.
Watson runs on 90 IBM 750 servers, with 2,880 Power7 cores running on 3.55GHz processors. It has 15TB or memory and can pump out 80 teraflops. This is a commercially available configuration, but Watson’s secret sauce is IBM’s DeepQA data-handling software. Brown said that to answer a question on this rig eventually took under three seconds, compared to the two days it would have taken a single processor.