In spite of losing to humans on the geography question, Watson still won Jeopardy.

The explanations regarding this incorrect answer seem a bit lame to me (at 3:40 in the video).


With a logo like this, I would expect Watson to perform better at finding a city based on airport attributes. Does anyone have any links describing how Watson performs geospatial reasoning?


A Smarter Planet had a great blog entry on why Watson got the answer wrong.

Also, Bruce Upbin wrote specifically about Watson performing a spatial operation:

There are many reasons Watson is good at Jeopardy!. It has something like a million pages of documents and a geospatial database in its memory. It can run the board on categories like “Northernmost Capital Cities,” in which you’re given a trio of capital cities and have to name the northernmost one. Watson doesn’t really “get” that the category is looking for geographical information off the bat. That isn’t a simple assumption to deduce from the category syntax, but it catches on quickly that all it has to do is compare the latitude of each city in the trio and give the one with the highest number. It buzzes in correctly on Stockholm, Bogota, Pyongyang, Algiers and Kathmandu. A.J. and I knew some of these, but that’s when Watson’s other superior trait kicks in; the machine is lightning-fast at buzzing in answers.

  • Thanks seth, I wonder how much spatial data they fed Watson. – Kirk Kuykendall Feb 25 '11 at 14:54
  • @Kirk - All of it probably! It'd be awesome if those guys showed up at DevSummit. – Britt Wescott Feb 25 '11 at 15:43

Check out this blog post on reddit: IBM Watson Research Team Answers Your Questions Nothing specific to geography but there is a general description of how Watson arrives at an answer to questions.

  • I'm surprised there's nothing specific to geography. I think "where can I drill for oil and make a profit?" would be a natural question. – Kirk Kuykendall Feb 25 '11 at 14:56
  • The next question should be "Where is Osama Bin Laden?" so the United States can return to "normal". :-) – James Schek Feb 28 '11 at 15:37

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